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  • Age based patrols

    We just recently split our patrols up and did something never pursued before in the troop. Scouts got to choose what patrols they wanted to be in. Basically, the ages of these patrols are 15, 13, and 13 on average, respectively. Anybody else have experience with age-based patrols? If so, how did you ensure they didn't "die" when older boys aged out or quit? How do you incorporate new Scouts into these patrols, which are in excess of 8 each?

  • #2
    IMHO, so what if a patrol dies as scouts age out. New scout patrols work well as they have enough members. I've seen three scout patrols of 16 year olds that seem to work fine. They just happen to also then be the scouts that often take up troop leadersihp positions.

    IMHO, the real key is let the scouts work it out and preferrably, let the scouts choose what patrol they want to be in. If each scout chooses such that it becomes age based, so what. At least the scouts get to experience the decision process and the results of their decisions.


    • #3
      Yah, chaoman45, yeh hit on one of da things that makes age-based patrols harder, eh?

      Generally speakin' what you'll find is that over time patrols will shrink and no longer be viable.

      Some units combine patrols temporarily for campouts, but that really undermines patrol method.

      Mostly, units just combine or reconfigure patrols on a permanent basis, so da number of patrols shrinks as boys get older.

      Hard part is yeh need to be a pretty big troop to make that work, eh? So sometimes as patrols shrink boys in smaller troops will lose their connection to da program and drift away. That's where yeh see da troops with high school boys who are inactive and come back for "deathbed" Eagles and such.

      Good luck with da shift.



      • #4

        It depends on what your goals are.
        My experience with age based patrols is that the job of PL is much much harder. New scouts look up to and and are willing to take direction from an older patrol leader. His couple of years more experience than them makes him an expert in their eyes. They learn from the older scouts in their patrol, and then are ready to lead other new scouts as they come into the patrol. Younger scouts are less likely to take direction from their immediate peer - who doesn't know any more than the rest of the patrol and is not respected to the same degree as an older scout would be, so they aren't as likely to take direction from a PL their own age. In an age based patrol, the PL is less likely to really "lead", because 1) it is difficult to lead others when you don't know enough to give them guidance and direction, and b) the scout has not had the opportunity to be led by a PL that has had opportunity to learn leadership skills through practice, and therefore has no one to emulate. In a mixed age patrol, with proper guidance, older members of the patrol grow to feel responsibility for the new members of the patrol.

        If on the other hand, your goal is to have a place where boys have fun hanging out, then age based patrols fill the bill. As the boys age, and some drop out, patrols start to merge. They don't feel the same level of responsibility for the younger scouts and new scouts, because they aren't in their patrol. Older age based patrols that I have observed tend to hang out without doing much unless pushed to do so by adults, and they then grow to feel that they are being made to be baby sitters.

        Something to consider is letting boys make decisions with appropriate guidance from the SM. Depending what the adult leaders vision for the boys, you will help them learn. Scouts need guidance, because there are a whole lot of things that they dont consider, because they dont have the perspective based on multiple experiences.
        After a few months, meet with the patrols and ask some guiding questions. Things like:
        How are the new scouts learning scout skills? Do you think that their scout skills are as good as they could be? How have you made them to feel that they are part of the troop? Do you feel that you have a responsibility to them? Why or why not?
        How are the interpatrol competitions working when you have the age disparity between the patrols? Does one patrol have an unfair advantage because of size and age? Are the competitions truly challenging for the older patrol? Are the competitions unfair for the younger patrol?
        With this type of guided questioning, the scouts should gradually start to understand, and consider when making their decisions.


        • #5
          One trick:

          Make sure the PLs and APLs have special opportunities (PLCs, crakerbarrels, training campouts, special service projects) where the seasoned leaders can pass on skills to young ones.

          Over time, is balances out the skill levels. Also, younger patrols should be able to invite senoir scouts with a particular skill to provide a training session. You should never let an older boy think that he has graduated from helping younger ones become better scouts.


          • #6
            It always amazes me that when the boys pick patrols they tend to pick by age and buddies. When adults pick the patrols they tend to mix and match.

            Both in many ways both work out. So why is it the adults are running the show under the disguise of boy leadership?

            If the boys age out and patrols die off, so what, make new ones.

            If the older boys don't have enough to make a patrol, so what, they are usually the mentoring SPL, ASPL, TG, QM and Instructors. Let them do their job. By the time they are 16-17, they already know, or should know the routine of leadership, let them pass it on to the younger boys by mentoring patrols. If they haven't the leadership skills by the time they are 16-17, then there's something wrong with the program.


            (This message has been edited by jblake47)


            • #7
              "So why is it the adults are running the show under the disguise of boy leadership?"

              That could be said about so many things; i.e., why are adults determining the advancement requirements? Would boys select knot tying, cooking, hiking, identifying wildlife, etc. for requirements in their troop or patrol? What if they chose to replace them with beating a given number of computer games, memorizing episodes of sponge bob, and eating 12 big macs at a single sitting at McDonalds (or any other requirement that the boys want)?

              Why are adults determining the aims of scouting? Why not let the boys decide what the troop and patrols aims should be? So what if the aims they come up with are different or non-existent?

              Whay are adults determining the methods of scouting? If a patrol wants to use a method they call "hanging out", etc., why should an adult care?

              This can all be characterized as "adults running the show under the disguise of boy leadership".


              • #8
                chaoman45 ... Just ready the scoutmaster handbook on The Boy-Led Patrol and you will do fine.


                chaoman45 ... You've hit one of the big eternal debates: How to structure patrols? People will look at the exact same situation and see diametrically opposed interpretations. Some want older "experienced" scouts to lead these groups. Others are okay with same-age scouts leading each other. In the end, most people just defend what theyve always done as the right answer.

                IMHO, read the BSA Scoutmaster Handbook on "The Boy-Led Patrol". Its hard to go wrong if you implement the program thats documented and dont over think it. Scouting has a lot of nuances, but its really not that hard.

                With that said, I just dont understand how to make mixed age patrols work well. You have to assign scouts and essentially break up friendships and clicks. Further, you break up people who are the same level. It just makes no sense to me because if a patrol is anything, a patrol is a set of kids that do things together. Id assert its more than just cooking and tenting. Its hiking, learning, swimming, canoeing, high adventures, etc.

                My experience with mixed age patrols is that the patrol disintegrates during down time as scouts go hang with their friends who are usually the same age. IMHO, that is the number one sign of a strong patrol. Its a set of kids who stick together and do things.

                I also just dont like assuming you need older scouts to lead younger scouts. Scouts learn by doing. That includes leadership. Having an older scout in charge is not so much about leadership as it is about submission. Smaller, younger, newer people in any group will often submit to the opinion and direction of the bigger, older, tenured person. Its not so much about leadership as much as about power. I'd rather turn that position on it's head and say that you need the confusion and the lack of "that's how it's always been done" to teach lessons about leadership.

                I had a friend who defended assigning older scouts into the new scout patrols as patrol leader because it was unreasonable to expect new scouts to know how to lead. IMHO, that is exactly the time to let them lead as they will be the most fresh and excited about scouting. Who else is motived to do a great job following thru on commitments than a brand new scout? That excitement easily brings them over any leadership deficiency. The rest can be quickly taught.

                One thing that Ive seen happen in mixed age patrols is the same thing Ive seen happen with the SPL position. The younger scouts elected their own guy. Older scouts and parents were miffed. Scoutmaster was frustrated because it wasnt supposed to work that way.

                My reaction was that thats exactly how its supposed to work. Of course, that group always tried to stack the deck so that the elections were strongly guided to who they thought should be SPL or PL. Just so happens now and then the scouts thought differently. Then, what do you do? Over-ride the election?

                Anyway, its an eternal debate.

                Just ready the scoutmaster handbook on The Boy-Led Patrol and you will do fine.(This message has been edited by fred8033)


                • #9
                  Just ready the scoutmaster handbook on The Boy-Led Patrol and you will do fine.

                  Yah, that's funny, eh?

                  Seeing as how da SM handbook doesn't answer da two questions he posed.

                  Chaoman45, if yeh want da debate, there are a couple dozen old threads with that. For your questions, I think what Fred and I are tellin' yeh is that patrols won't be stable in a same age setup. So if that's a feature that's important to yeh in patrol method, same age won't work for yeh.

                  In terms of new scouts, typically they just continue on as a patrol in a same age setup. So they'd become patrol 4. If yeh don't have enough first year lads then of course yeh have a problem, but it's something for da boys to deal with, with some guidance. Without guidance, the tendency will be toward isolating the younger / weaker boys, in da same way that NSP does. That's tough on them and their parents.


                  • #10
                    It always amazes me that when the boys pick patrols they tend to pick by age and buddies. When adults pick the patrols they tend to mix and match.

                    Shouldn't amaze yeh at all. It's just like most boys will only choose events they are already famIliar with. For most lads, being put in age-based groups is all they have experience with. That's how school and most activities work. These days especially kids come from smaller families.

                    In a mixed age patrol troop, boys naturally select that way,eh? There they think in terms of balance for fair competition, or how to be responsible for safety in a group.



                    • #11
                      "Would boys select knot tying, cooking, hiking, identifying wildlife, etc. for requirements in their troop or patrol? What if they chose to replace them with beating a given number of computer games, memorizing episodes of sponge bob, and eating 12 big macs at a single sitting at McDonalds (or any other requirement that the boys want)?"

                      This is where the SM steps in and does his job, which is to administer the BSA program. There's "Boy run" and then there's "Boy run into the ground". I'm thinking most parents wouldn't be bringing their sons meetings if the only thing that was going on was watching Sponge Bob and playing video games. Heck they get enough of that at home! Of course if things are going well for the troop the boys know that this is where they get the opportunity to do things like climbing, building campfires, using an axe etc. Things they don't get to do elsewhere.


                      • #12
                        Your Scouts didn't choose age-based patrols, they chose to be with the guys they want to go camping and hang out with. When I'm put in situations where I'm required to be with people not of my choosing, I call it work and get a check at the end of the week. When I hang out with folks I like, they tend to be my friends and tend to be my age (acknowledging that as we get older "my age" is a much wider span than it was at 13 or 15).

                        Scouts, like everyone, tend to stay active and involved in an organization when they are with their friends. So kudos to your troop for being boy-led and organizing themselves as they see fit.

                        On the other hand, in my experience boys need a couple years under their belts before they're really ready to accept the responsibility of being in their own patrols without the supervision of a troop guide or older PL. First- and second-year Scounts aren't ready to FOLLOW a same-aged patrol leader.

                        This fall we came to the point it was necessary to reorganize patrols. It happens. We had the guys who wanted to be PLs raise their hands then told the rest of the troop to go join the patrol leader they wanted to be with -- just give the troop scribe a roster when you're done. (As a side note, if you want a wake-up call be the pain-in-the ass guy who never does his share of the work or is constantly getting in trouble and discover NO ONE wants you in their patrol.)

                        We wound up with one patrol of 16- and 17-y.o., four patrols somewhat mixed ages and one patrol of all second year guys. I knew that patrol was a train wreck waiting to happen and tried to encourage some other guys to join them. No deal. So three months in it's a classic Charlie Foxtrot. PL thinks everyone will do everything he says just because. The PLs two best friends think the have it made because their best friend is in charge. Nothing gets done. Constant bickering. Discipline issues. Complaints from parents. A bunch of 11- and 12-y.o.s just don't have the maturity to work together as a cohesive team and to listen to a leader who isn't seen as being significantly older (which could mean 15 or 55). They don't see the advantages of being subservient to the PL just for the common good of the group and they're not mature enough to jump in and do the drudge work just to get it done.

                        I've asked my senior guys to keep an eye on the patrol, camp a little closer to them and "visit" their campsite at critical time. The senior guys are over it. They're sick of them. Me too.

                        February, at the end of the term, that patrol may be absorbed into the others. Haven't really decided yet. My SPL and I will have a discussion on this after the first of the year.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)


                        • #13
                          Thanks, Eagle! You get my point. Without structure, mentoring and guidance, it is not as likely to make a positive impact on the youth!


                          • #14
                            I admit I do not NSPs as I had a bad expereince being a PL, or what would now be called a Troop Guide, for one. Long story short too many to teach by one person, even with help. Also if most go to the same school, could cause attendance issues, i.e. only 1 person from the patrol able to make an event due to a school activity.

                            Also I saw the "Charlie Foxtrot," that a NSP was when my oldest visited a troop campout: late for events, no teamwork, parents having to get involved in the cooking and cleaning process, etc.

                            My troop mostly did the buddy system, i.e. pairing up "older" and "younger scout." Started with Webelos visiting the troop at the meeting and on their camp out with us. By the time they joined us, they went with their "older Scout buddy" on their own.


                            • #15
                              How do you incorporate new Scouts into these patrols, which are in excess of 8 each?

                              Just noticed that part of the OP. Start asking some of your more capable scouts, "How would you like to start a new patrol?"

                              That's what happened to me and a couple of buddies of mine when we got a swarm of crossovers. Our new "Wolf" patrol had the majority of 1st-years, but the other patrols each picked up one or two scouts moving over.

                              Eventually, the older "Cobra" patrol retired as those boys moved on. The flag and other patrol equipment went into storage and was available to anyone who wanted to restart the patrol.