If your Scout is nearing the completion of the Arrow of Light (AOL) Cub Scout rank, congratulations are in order! Whether your Scout started as a Bobcat, Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Bear, or Webelos, it doesn’t matter. It’s time to celebrate their success! 😀 A special AOL ceremony is what will mark this important time for your Scout.
Planning and organizing an annual AOL ceremony can be done easily with the vast amount of resources available. Your pack serves as your number one resource, of course, but you also have many Scouting websites (like this one!) as well as Facebook Cub Scout groups that are wonderful for networking and sharing ideas.
PS. This article is a guest post collaboration between Cub Scouting volunteer Jaci H and Cole 🙂
My Experience With AOL Ceremonies: It was about seven years ago when my son had his AOL ceremony. I remember him crossing the bridge and being received by the group of Scouts from his new Scouts BSA troop. It was such a nostalgic moment!
In this article, I’ll take you through the basic steps for planning and holding an AOL ceremony with tips from Scouts BSA and Cub Scout pack leaders across the country. If you have a particular section you’d rather jump to first, feel free to do that through the following section links!
- What Is a Cub Scout AOL Ceremony?
- Planning an AOL Ceremony
- Setting the Date
- Inviting Guests
- Should You Hold A Stand-Alone AOL Ceremony?
- Combining AOL With Blue and Gold Ceremonies
- What Happens During an AOL Ceremony?
- Gifts Given at an AOL Ceremony
What Is a Cub Scout Arrow Of Light (AOL) Ceremony?
The AOL ceremony marks a significant milestone in your Cub Scout’s life as they near a transition into Scouts BSA. Traditionally, packs will hold an annual celebration for the Cub Scouts who earn this rank. This awesome Scout news video (31:15) from Massachusetts showcases an Arrow of Light ceremony in action:
You’ll often hear the term “crossover” associated AOL ceremonies. Arrow of Light marks the end of the Cub Scout journey and the beginning, if chosen, of a new adventure in Scouts BSA. Of course, each rank a Cub earns is an accomplishment, but AOL is the most significant as it is the highest rank a Cub can achieve! 🙂
Planning A Cub Scout AOL Ceremony
The way your pack handles its AOL ceremony has a lot to do with tradition. Some packs include the AOL crossover in their Blue and Gold banquets. If that’s what your pack does, read our article on the Blue and Gold banquet for a great overview! Others feel the AOL crossover should stand alone as a separate event.
If you are involved in planning a ceremony, it’s best to get feedback from past leaders or event organizers. Ask their advice on what worked. After that, you’ll need to select an event leader and form a team. Divide the tasks fairly and set a date a couple of months in advance to allow for planning and prep.
Setting the Date
AOL crossovers typically take place between February and April. This timing gives the Scouts a chance to get acclimated in their new Scouts BSA troop before they (hopefully) attend summer camp. That one week away together is a highlight for many — and a fantastic chance for the Scouts to better get to know each other.
This timing isn’t set in stone though. I read about one pack that had an AOL crossover ceremony in December! As long as they’ve met all the requirements, it shouldn’t be a problem, and would definitely provide more time to get to know the new troop before camp. Each Scout should work at their own pace.
Personally, our son, now 17, bridged to his Scouts BSA troop in the month of March. I think the deadline to decide about summer camp came up immediately and we just weren’t ready financially. Unfortunately, he did not attend summer camp — and he was the only one! In hindsight, I always felt bad that we didn’t figure out how to make it work and send him.
Inviting AOL Ceremony Guests
The whole family has reason to be proud and share in your Scout’s accomplishment! 😉 Be sure to invite extended family members and anyone else who has been supportive of your Scout’s journey. Your Scout deserves an audience of beloved friends and family for their special celebration!
When the AOL ceremony is its own separate event, I’ve seen packs include just the families of the Scouts being honored. I’ve also seen other packs invite all the Scouts. It’s up to your own pack, its traditions, and the accommodations for your ceremony. If possible though, I’d say the more people, the merrier!
Should You Hold A Stand-Alone AOL Ceremony?
If you’re in a situation where your pack is deciding whether to host the AOL ceremony as a separate event or if you are in a newly established pack, in this section I’ll give you some thoughts on the benefits of a separate event versus combining your AOL Ceremony with a Blue and Gold banquet.
The first — and most obvious — benefit of a stand-alone ceremony is that the focus is 100 percent on the Scouts crossing over from AOL into Scouts BSA. You’ll have a chance to take on one of the many available scripts or to create your own for an AOL ceremony.
Scouting Parent Perspective: Every pack I have been associated with since I was a Cub Scout separated the two events. In this case, the crossover needs to be about the Scouts who have put in the hard work to earn their AOL. Blue and Gold is about celebrating Scouting as a whole.Leader Mike K.
One parent chimed in, “When my son started, the pack combined them, and it was a long, boring event that the younger Scouts couldn’t sit through. The next year, we separated them. The crossover was a short and sweet event celebrating the AOL Scouts. We were even able to hold it at a better venue (walking across a real bridge)!”
This leads me to a second benefit of a stand-alone ceremony. Having it separate opens the door to select a unique location. This one really stood out for me. We had a special AOL bridge at our Blue and Gold for the boys to cross. With a separate AOL event, you could actually take your Scouts to a real bridge — like the parent above mentioned! 😀
Scouting Experience: After reading so much about separate AOL ceremonies, I have to say I wish that we had taken advantage of one for our boys! I’ve seen a variety of scripts that are used in the ceremonies, involving the Cubmaster and Scouts. I’ve read a lot about unique and fun locations for the ceremonies. Check out our related post about AOL Ceremony Ideas!
A third benefit of having a stand-alone AOL ceremony is that the ceremony can be longer and more fun. If you make it longer and it’s not fun and interactive, you’ve done something wrong! Take advantage of the opportunity to add some playfulness and humor into this milestone event.
Combining AOL Ceremonies With Blue and Gold Ceremonies
On the flip side, you can combine an AOL crossover with your annual Blue and Gold banquet and have other advantages. First, instead of having two different events to attend and plan — you have only one. Less planning and less time taken out of family schedules is a big plus!
A second benefit of combining the two events is that there is a larger audience for the AOL Scouts. At a Blue and Gold banquet, all families attend. Often special members of the community are invited to see what’s going on with local Scouting!
A third benefit is that the youngest Scouts get to witness a glimpse of their future! The special ceremony will give them something to look forward to when they get to that level in their Scouting journey. See this inspiring example video (5:45) of an AOL Scout completing the crossover:
Another benefit is that the AOL ceremony is usually more straightforward when it’s part of a Blue and Gold. You don’t want that section of the program to take too long. You also don’t want to be too serious or you’ll lose the Scouts’ attention. Find a balance between fun and serious! 🙂
My Scouting Experience: In my son’s pack, the AOL Scouts were called to the podium one by one. Members from the Scouts BSA troop receiving them stood on the opposite side of the indoor bridge, which was set up for the ceremony. The Scouts crossed the bridge and a member of their new troop replaced their neckerchief with the new troop one!
What Happens During an Arrow of Light Ceremony?
The script for the evening will set the tone for your AOL ceremony no matter when you decide to do it. We could write a whole other article about AOL ceremony themes and ideas. Wait a minute… we did! Be sure to check it out after you’re done here.
During a stand-alone ceremony, more individuals will likely take part in the ceremony. If the AOL crossover is part of a Blue and Gold banquet, it might just be the emcee leading that part of the program. I would still recommend designating an emcee for a stand-alone, as that person is very helpful in keeping a program running!
If you do have a lot of individuals involved in an AOL script, it’ll be really helpful to have at least one practice run to see how everything will flow. Depending on how it goes, you can decide if you need to have another rehearsal! 😜
Gifts Given at an AOL Ceremony
A variety of gifts might be given to Scouts participating in an AOL crossover. Examples include personalized hiking sticks, plaques with photos from the Scout’s journey, blankets with the pack name, engraved pocket knives, certificates, and a square Cub Scout coin. Plaques with arrows are also very common! This video (8:22) provides a tutorial on creating one:
Former Scout Scott R. said, “My most treasured possessions from my time as a Cub are my Pinewood Derby cars (a shadow box for them would be nice!) and the arrow I received from Akela when I received my Arrow of Light, which to this day still hangs proudly on my wall.”
Scouting Experience: When my son did his AOL crossover, he received a special arrow, like the one in the video above, that hangs from a wooden plaque with his pack name, date, and his name. He also received a large shadow box. Inside that box, we placed various patches, old neckerchiefs and slides, a Scout shirt, pins, and belt loops. It’s a whole memory display of Cub Scouts!
While the box in this video (12:56) doesn’t contain as many ideas for what you might put in a shadow box, it shows the same basic principle. This father actually built the box too!
Other gifts may be given to adult and youth leaders at the AOL ceremony. For example, Scouts BSA members who complete certain requirements during their service as den chief can earn an award. One pack even gives the outgoing den leader and Cubmaster tumblers with their names on them as a gift!
No matter which way you decide to host your AOL ceremony, it will undoubtedly be memorable. If you read this piece thoroughly, you’ll remember that I said watching my son cross the bridge at the ceremony was very nostalgic. It was! Yet, you’ll also remember that I wished our pack had held a separate AOL crossover event. They sound like fun! 😀
Can I have it both ways? Why not! Our simple ceremony worked, but I see different ones do too. For more info on ceremony concepts, scripts, and prep. you’re going to have to read our other post on AOL ceremony ideas to fully understand my excitement at all the possibilities!
Thanks so much for dropping by! If you enjoyed learning about holding Arrow of Light Ceremonies, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of the following articles:
- Transitioning From Cub Scouts to Scouts BSA: Tips For Parents And Webelos
- The Biggest Benefits Of Cub Scouting (For My Child) (Also by Jaci H!)
- Cub Scout Annual Calendars: Monthly Ideas For Pack Activities
- Everything To Know Before Joining Scouts BSA
- How To Win A Pinewood Derby: 6 Science-Backed Tips For Cub Scouts
I hope this article helps you out a ton! On a final note, be sure to have fun with your AOL ceremony. Try something new, even if it’s one tiny change. Change can be exciting! Don’t stress about any mess ups because no one else will likely notice if you forget something. Follow the Cub motto: Do Your Best!