These take up a single side of A4 that not only serves as an Award itself but states the requirements needed to gain that stage and so a photocopy can be given as a record of achievement so far.
Each award is designed to test a Cub on a particular skill (e.g. mapping) and offers three levels of achievement (Gold, Silver & Bronze).
The requirements for each award are listed on the front with a space for a completion date and signature. The left hand side is reserved for some pictures relating to that particular skill. The Cubs usually take a black & white photocopy while working on the award and when they have completed the award we give them a colour version printed on card.
Where did the idea come from?
I came up with the idea of offering the Cubs a chance to undertake a Scouting skill in detail quite a while ago now (2001), when I changed the Pack night program to include a lot more basic Scouting skills. Almost all of the requirements are those covered by the (then) Cub awards/Handbook although I have made what I feel they should be able to do at that level. Certainly some of the Gold awards are heading towards Scout rather than Cub work but then again I don't hold my Cubs back too much in that respect. At least with the awards they are concentrating on a particular skill at one time rather than spread out across several years and several awards. I can use these occasionally as the basis for some work on a Pack night. At the simplest level though it just provides the Cubs with another opportunity to learn and enjoy themselves and feel the pride of earning an award.
Do they really make a difference?
During the first few years after I came up with these awards the Cubs had a lot more practice at what I consider the basic Scouting skills and have improved immensely. I won't pretend that every Cub wanted to try one of the awards but most of my Cubs went for at least one, with a few Cubs trying their hand at several of the awards. Used in conjunction with (or as an excuse for) more knotting/ mapping etc. as a regular feature of the Pack night you may see a noticeable improvement in their knowledge and skills.
Our Cubs got to the stage where they sometimes did some mapping, knotting, compass etc. almost all night. Of course you must be able to put this across in the right way. So called 'games' that utilise these skills are important, as well as not making the 'work' boring in the first place. If you can try new and varied ways of teaching these, and if you do it regularly, you will see a great improvement in their Scouting skills.
OK, How do I go about making them then??
I constructed my original awards using Microsoft Word 97 although they were redesigned in Publisher (See the comments regarding certificates and newsletters). You can make use of Word's templates and ready made files/wizards to give you the basic layout that you prefer. A simple modification of the text can give you a usable certificate in a short amount of time. I wanted to add pictures to mine so I used a 'boxed-out' frame to hold the pictures separate. To be honest they are not that difficult to construct being mainly plain text in a simple layout. Indeed the certificates sometimes got modified to use on special occasions or at camp.
I have had to construct many different certificates and awards for the district over the past few years and now use various 'templates' of my own construction within Microsoft Publisher. However, there are many different programs out there and I would always recommend a free program for someone to try things out with. Take a look at the Useful Programs list on the GLNE site. All those programs are high quality, safe to use and free!