Springhill Park in Barling transformed from a sleepy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers camp ground into a bustling hub of Cub Scouts on Friday night (Oct. 25).
And while the annual Cub Adventure Weekend introduced Scouts from first through fifth grades to various outdoor activities ranging from archery to shooting BB guns, this Adventure Weekend had a unique theme, according to Assistant Scout Executive Christian Swaim of the Western Arkansas Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
"This year's theme is 'Mad Science.' So there are some science-related activities that the kids are doing. We've got a couple of different pavilions where they are having science laboratories, they're learning about (blood) at one, they're making another kind of slimy goop at another – I'm not sure what it's called – and they talked about chemical reactions at the other one, so they showed them baking soda, vinegar, those type things,” Swaim said.
Even though much of the public generally associates Scouting with rugged outdoorsmanship, have Scouts learning about science and its role in the world around them has long been a part of the Scouting experience, according to Swaim.
"All through Scouting, in each of the programs, there's always science-related programs based on the kids' ability to do those things. So there's science in the Tiger Cub program, in the Cub Scouting program – different parts of that, especially the Webelos program, which is fourth and fifth graders. They actually have a scientist activity pin that they do."
As boys continue in the Boy Scouts, he said there would be many STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs for students which will be important as the students not only aspire to achieve Eagle Scout, but also explore majors when entering college and deciding on a career path.
Camp Director Shelly Leckie said even though the more than 200 Cub Scouts from across the region who were participating in the event this weekend were learning about science, the items used were simple and safe.
"All we're using is corn starch, baking powder and water, corn syrup and borax," she said.
Using some of those ingredients, along with Red Hots candy, students were able to not only learn about blood, as Swaim had referred to earlier, but students got to see the different components of blood illustrated with those household ingredients at one of the laboratories.
At another, students were given the opportunity to see a water and cornstarch mixture dance as a sound system's bass pulsed below the substance, eliciting cheers from some boys and silent wonder from others.
The Adventure Weekend, which will end on Sunday (Oct. 27), has not been focused entirely on science and education. Many Cub Scouts experienced for the first time the shooting a bow and arrow and BB guns, all while camping out under the stars, only disturbed by the occasional barge blowing its horn as it floated down the Arkansas River north of camp.
Steve Carter, who is spending the weekend at his son, Alexander's, first ever event with the Cub Scouts, said being involved in organization and experiencing outings like the Adventure Weekend were beneficial to Alexander for very specific reasons.
"Well, for one, he's an only child. So being able to interact with other boys his age, it helps him a lot," he said. "A lot with his social skills. And then he learns a lot of stuff that will be useful later."
While Carter may be looking for his son to have increased social interaction with other Cub Scouts, all Alexander could talk about was the "blood."
"It was red blood cells, white blood cells and the platelets. And the plasma wasn't really actually real blood because we ate some," he said with glee.
Bringing joy to Cub Scouts like Alexander is why Swaim said annual events like the Cub Adventure Weekend exist. In order to pay for the weekend's activities, which runs the Western Arkansas Council about $3,000, families are charged $15 per Cub Scout while the rest of the family is allowed to participate for free.
But Swaim said boys wanting to participate in Cub Scouts will always have a place in the program, regardless of their family's finances.
"We do have opportunities for anybody that wants to be involved to get a scholarship," he said. "We don't turn anybody away because of their ability to pay, basically. We'll give everybody an opportunity to be in Scouts. We can't give them the influence of the program if we don't have them in the program."