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West Hartford Cub Scouts Invent Objects and Games from ‘Genius Bag’ Contents

Webelos first place winner Chance Housum (left) and third place winner Dylan Meer with their projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A panel of judges determined the “best” from an assortment of unique projects created by the members of West Hartford Scout Pack 148.

This scene of a camp was the only one that had ‘people’ in it. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

Fifty-two West Hartford Cub Scouts were given identical bags full of odds and ends, and challenged to create something – with amazing results.

“We give them a bag of random things,” said Cubmaster Bryan Runyon, who leads Pack 148, which includes boys in grades 1-5 from Aiken and Norfeldt. “They have a month.”

The items in the bags are a diverse assortment that includes nails, contact lens cases, toothpicks, pennies, pipettes, plastic cups, paper clips, straws, and bubble wrap. The scouts are also given a block of wood and a cardboard box.

“It’s really anything we can get 52 of,” said Deena Samberg-Shefsky, the mother of one of the scouts and an organizer of the event. All of the bags have identical contents.

“They get to build anything they imagine, using as much or as little of what is in the bag as they want,” Runyon said. The only permissible “addition” to a creation is adhesive to hold it together and paint to decorate it. Wording is allowed.

The goal is to challenge the boys’ creativity.

Pack 148 has been doing the Genius Bag project for about 10 years, and each year there have been an assortment of impressive projects resulting from the activity. A panel of judges from the community are brought in to determine the “best” projects, and scouts from each grade level receive coveted trophies for first, second, and third places.

This year’s judges were Hartford Hospital Vice President Barry Kriesberg, Scott Gamester from United Healthcare, and We-Ha.com Managing Editor Ronni Newton.

Nathaniel Goldschmidt, a member of the Arrow of Light (fifth grade) den, won second prize for his three-legged stool. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Selecting the winners was extremely difficult, because the creations were all so different. They ranged from games (a target-shooting display that actually worked took first place from the Webelos – fourth grade – den), to vehicles that had moving wheels made from plastic cups, to monsters and other creatures, to diorama-type displays of a scene, to a tray of “tacos” (that won second place in the Arrow of Light – fifth grade – den).

The judges also tried to determine if projects that had obvious and significant parental assistance (most first-graders are still developing fine motor skills, including writing, and it’s easy to see when they have had a lot of help), and tried to reward the projects that seemed to be truly the scouts’  own creations.

Some of the projects were scouting-related, like a scaled down version of a three-legged stool that the fifth-grader had created, and scenes from camp. Other ideas were inspired by movies and TV shows, or different types of vehicles.

The Genius Bag creations, true to the name, gave the scouts the chance to show their “genius.”

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Genius Bag projects from the Tiger (first grade) Scouts. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Judge Barry Kriesberg tests out a creation. In the background is judge Scott Gamester. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

One Scout created a Boston subway car. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fifth-grader Dylan Meer created a plate of tacos – his favorite food – from his Genius Bag contents. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pack 148 Genius Bag projects. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Judges (from left): Scott Gamester, Ronni Newton, Barry Kriesberg

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