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Patrol Method- Patrol Longevity and Reorganization.

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  • #16
    Beavah said
    "Two patrols have been around for at least twenty years, probably longer."

    Those are permanent patrols--where the troop has decided certain names of patrols will live on forever.
    That's another subject IMHO.

    Sure we have those patrols. The Eagle patrol is the leadership patrol it changes every time there is elections, boys go in and out. And the other is the Pedro patrol--the venture patrol of older boys who have held leadership positions may already be eagles, and want to do higher adventure and are leaving the leadership to the a bit young boys--often it's the 16-17 year olds who are almost done with their scouting. the patrol they used to belong to has often folded due to only 1 or 2 members. they may have the lowest attendance due to high school classes and finals and college classes(so many high school students take college classes now) but there is never a question of their committment to scouting.

    Those two patrols have been around probably for 40 years or more, but in name only. The boys have come in and go out. the leadership changes. the members change. they just decided to keep the same name over time. That's like the bobwhite and beaver patrol of wood badge--keep the names, and when you get together with a group of different year wood badgers, you can all sing the same song, but you don't know those who came before or those who came after enought to say those are my mates, my buds. you have a basic kindred spirit, but not due to belonging to the same patrol, only from belonging to the same troop over time.

    The patrols with a longevity of 6-7 years, now those are the patrols I'd be comparing to others. boys join a patrol and stay in it the whole time--perhaps they pop out to do a troop position for 6 months, but they go right back to their home base. They are the scouts who become friends and buds outside of scouting and within.

    For some boys they will want to be with scouts of their same age for quite a while, or maybe forever. many adults are like this, they like to be around those with similar age based culture. These types do best in a new scout patrol, they may mature a bit and integrate into other patrols well, but most scouts like this do best with at least one to 3 same aged scouts with them regardless of how old or mature they get.

    For some boys they gravitate toward scouts who are older than them and younger than them. it may be their common interests outside of scouting, or their common interests within scouting. They do well if you sink them by themselves into a mixed age patrol right off the bat.

    It is very very difficult to identify what kind of scout you have there when they first cross over. To say one is better or worse than the other is missing the point--and is actually very poor insight into the inner workings of young boys. They are not all the same regardless of how much you may want them to be.

    Sure in a small troop you can get to know the boys as scoutmaster and/or spl. you can see where they'd fit and make good recommendations of which patrol they should join or which of their same age buddies they should take with them to a mixed age patrol.

    When you have a troop of 70 after 15-20 webelos cross over each year, it is nigh on impossible to get that to work. you can't get to know the 15-20 webelos enough to know where they fit best. so you have to choose, mix them up, mixed age patrols? or new scout patrol or 2?

    If you have 6 patrols of 8, with one being your leadership patrol, and one being your venture patrol, so there are only 4 patrols that you ca really put newbies into. Do you put 4-5 new guys into each of those patrols, over the course of 3-4 months, but you don't know how may will come over since there are 4 other troops in your area that may get some of the often 30 ish webelos that are eligible to join a troop in the spring. some cross over as early as January, some not til the end of the school year in May.

    Is it a good idea to take a patrol that is performing, and put them back at storming/forming level by giving them 1-5 new scouts over the course of 5 months over and over again? about the time they get those boys sort of figured out, wham you get 1-2 from another pack.

    Your existing patrols have now gone from 6 patrols of 8, to 2 patrols of 8 and 4 patrols that are close to 13. which is a bit too big most of the time.

    So in our troop with those kinds of conditions we deal with every year, we did the above for years. many years. and usually within 3 months of joining we'd lost 60-75% of the new scouts, usually with the complaint that they were lost, confused and felt left out by the older guys.

    One year we tried the New scout patrol--we had only 13 crossovers that year. Everyone went into the new scout patrol with a troop guide and an older scout given to them as a start up patrol leader, transferring them to self governance asap. some joined in January-May, then we received a few more in august as well.

    at recharter time, we'd lost only 15% of them. many still had the complaint that they were lost, confused and felt left out by the older guys but they were in it together, went camping together etc.

    In February we have elections, and at that time they were given the choice to stay in their own patrol, join an existing patrol or form a different patrol. and they did all 3. about 6 of them stayed together, a few joied existing patrols, and a couple wanted their own patrol and some other guys joined them. so at that point, we still had mixed age patrols primarily, with a group that wants to stay together by age.

    so there is not just one answer to this.

    Patrols should change or die off when they need to. nsp has it's use in some size troops.


    • #17
      Great discussion. I have been wrestling with this topic recently and came to this forum to do some research. Here's where we're at:

      Our patrols mostly align with the age cohorts of the successive waves of WEBELOS (I won't go so far as to say we've had a NSP program; that might be overstating things a bit). For reasons that involve school demands, attrition, and general motivation, our SPLs have tended to be 14 and 15 years old going back as far as 2008. Unfortunately, our older scouts have tended to to either drift off or have sometimes become a nuisance by not giving the SPL all the support--and I daresay respect--he deserves and depends on. We do have Eagle Scouts and they are helpful, but they also show up sporadically.

      Many factors contribute to this state of affairs, including adult complacency. But I think a fundamental cause of our "ills" is the age-based patrols. As noted by others here, if the older boys are not in charge of other boys it's hard to keep them engaged. Librarian and Scribe are both important positions worthy of leadership credit, but that falls on deaf ears with our 15-, 16-, and 17-year olds. The younger patrols (we have three that are entirely sub-First Class) don't get the benefit of being led by an experienced PL. They make mistakes--which is fine--but they end up getting frustrated because it feels like they are figuring it out on their own. We've had Troop Guides assigned, but for some reason they have tended to be spotty in their attendance or have been focused on other goals (i.e. attaining Eagle Scout). I feel like there's not the same "sense of ownership" with a Troop Guide as there is with a PL.

      Right now we have a two Eagle Scouts aging out. They leave behind the sole remaining member of their patrol who is only 15 (don't ask why there has been a three-scout patrol because I'm not sure myself). Since we have to find a new patrol for that sole scout, I think it may be a good time to mix things up more broadly (I can't bring myself to describe it as tossing the salad because that actually has an R-rated meaning too.)

      Our (now) most senior patrol has two 16- and two 17-year olds, two of which are former SPLs and two of which are less than helpful, plus a 15-year old that has no allegiance to the patrol and is always helping out as Troop Guide and Instructor and virtually anything else that needs doing. Historically he never had a chance of being elected PL of original patrol and I guess it's never dawned on anyone--adults included--that he should/could switch to another patrol.

      We have two patrols of 14- and 15-year olds and neither of them are healthy from a patrol identity perspective. Neither is a group of buddies per se and both have poor attendance.

      Below these are the three younger patrols, one in its second year (all Second Class and closing in on First) and two first year patrols. And we're staring down the barrel of a batch of about a dozen WEBELOS. The junior patrols have done what they can to learn the ropes and I am happy with the motivation and sense of identity among them. But I feel like they would thrive and retain their numbers over time if they had older scouts integrated into their patrols, playing the mentor role that is the Scouting way.

      I could use suggestions on how we might do a mix up. I'm wary that letting the scouts elect/select and self-regulate might not result in the change we need. Left to their own devices they've evolved into our current state. However, I'm also loathe to direct and dictate how the boys should be organized. I'm thinking of having a Scoutmaster Conference with only the senior scouts and soliciting their recommendations. But I feel like I need to provide the catalyst like telling them their current patrols are now retired and they have to choose which of the junior patrols they want to join and lead. But just writing that out sounds wrong to me.

      So that's why I came to this thread...


      • #18
        I'm wary that letting the scouts elect/select and self-regulate might not result in the change we need.

        That could be your problem. You think that, by allocating boys on your own, the odds are in your favor of getting the intended results. Whatever does or does not happen will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        Something to think about.


        • #19
          That could be your problem. You think that, by allocating boys on your own, the odds are in your favor of getting the intended results.
          On the contrary, I don't want to allocate them because I'm quite sure I'll get it wrong. But they've boy-led themselves to a state where the eldest three of our seven patrols are not functioning as patrols and have members that are either becoming disillusioned or are turning inward to focus on their own successes/achievements. I suspect they don't know, or worse don't think they're "allowed" to switch from one patrol to another.

          Having now read through a few other threads on this topic, I see that this is an age-old discussion (pardon the pun) with valid opposing opinions. I find myself drawn to an "ask the boys" approach. I certainly have a place to start: my one-scout patrol.


          • #20
            > We've had Troop Guides assigned, but for some reason they have tended to be spotty in their attendance or have been focused on other goals (i.e. attaining Eagle Scout). I feel like there's not the same "sense of ownership" with a Troop Guide as there is with a PL.

            In the race to Eagle, have SM conferences been held with these young leaders to discuss whether they are or are not meeting the needs of the patrol for whiich they are TG? Whether they are living up to the scout oath and law if their attendance is spotty? An in-depth discussion on the expectations of someone holding the position, and whether the young man believes that he is truely fulfilling his obligations to the patrol and troop? Is it a "gimmee"; i.e., a job that done half heartedly still results in adults saying "Good Job - Here is your award"?

            Just some additional things to think about to engage the young men in a manner that makes a difference.


            • #21
              I agree with qwazse. Once I hear a prospective SM say "we don't want the inmates to run the asylum" I know we will have a problem with boy led and--surprise, surprise--Patrol cohesion and the whole thing. Especially with the older boys. Seems to be self fulfilling.

              This weekend I was hammocking with my young son. Because of the mosquitos we had to retreat to early and had plenty of time to chat before sleep. I was once again AMAZED at how accurate a 13 year old's appraisal of the attitude and engagement of the SM's he has had was. He NAILED it. You can't fool the boys, at least for long.