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Making age based patrols work

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  • Making age based patrols work

    Fred and a few others are passionate about using age based patrols. I was not able to find ways to overcome issues that I saw when working with a troop with same aged patrols. I did not find any recommendations in BSA training or literature dealing with the issues that seemed to be inherent. I do accept that others have found good ways to deal with such issues, where I did not.

    I'm starting this thread for sharing ways to make age based patrols work. Following are some of the issues I saw with same aged patrols. Please share with the group ways you found to address them.

    1) A patrol of same age boys (up until about 14), have difficulty staying focused for even the 15 to 20 minutes of the instruction portion or patrol meeting portion of the meeting. They frequently engaged in horseplay, disrupting the meeting. In multi-aged patrols, there was less opportunity for horseplay, and the senior members of the patrol wouldn't put up with it and put a stop to it without adult involvement. How do you keep the younger lads (10, 11, 12) from engaging in horseplay in same age patrols?

    2) A major component of troop meetings and campouts is the inter-patrol competition, which helps strengthen scout skills. In age based patrols, how do you set up a fair competition between patrols?

    3) Fred has said that he likes same age patrols because scouts get to be leaders right away. My experience was that young scouts (i.e. 11, and 12)don't want to take on the responsibilities that come with being a patrol leader. They would attend PLC meetings, but with no preparation. How do you get a young scout to really lead, when he has never had the opportunity to learn leadership by observing other boys lead?

    4) Scouts that are 11, 12, and 13 didn't willingly listen to or follow their same age PL, even after electing him. Elections were often a "let's stick Billy with it", because being a PL is a lot of work. How do you keep that from being the lesson that young patrol leaders learn? Similarly, patrol members at 11 and 12 would become patrol scribes and patrol QM's, but not want to put the effort into completing those jobs. How do you get 11 and 12 YO scouts to do those jobs without a lot of adult oversight?

    5) How do you get the older scouts to feel duty and responsibility to younger scouts when they are in separate patrols? How do you get them to become mentors when they are not in the same patrol? How do you get them to teach the younger scouts unless they are serving a term as troop instructor?


  • #2
    Not to be snarky, VV, but that's exactly why we quit using age-based patrols. I would add a sixth point that attrition makes it difficult to keep same-age patrols viable over the long-term.

    Unfortunately, the solution which applies to many of the issues is to gear instruction and activities around the younger patrols. Of course that runs the risk of boring the older guys. Part of our hybrid approach is that we still use new Scout patrols for the new Webelos from crossover through PL elections in the fall. While the NSP(s) are in place we run parallel instruction time -- which is the whole point of our using the NSPs. During instruction time the new boys focus on preparing for their first few campouts, learning to use the troop gear, basic scoutcraft, T-2-1 requirements, etc. The troop guides announce the topics for these sessions and older guys who many need to work on related requirements are free to join in. Depending on the activity, we try to handicap scoring for the NSP during competitions. For example, if we're running a knot relay, the NSP Scouts are only given basic knots they have been taught.

    Leadership is the nut we couldn't crack. In one of the other threads on the topic, I mentioned my older son's PL quit Scouting in part because of his frustration with being PL to his peers on a competitive camporee. (In full disclosure, the kid also HATED the whole concept of camping, so the PL deal was more of a last straw.) Leading first and second year Scouts is no job for wussies. You need your best, most experienced leader (and those with a knack for working with younger guys) to lead young patrols. Asking an 11-year-old to try and lead a group of his peers is setting that kid up for failure. As you note in point four, it has more to do with the other 11-y.o.s unwillingness to being "bossed around" by their peer than it does the PL's leadership skills.

    In yet another thread I've mentioned the current patrol I have of all second year Scouts. This is precisely thier issue. I saw this train wreck from a mile away and tried several everything but outright SM veto to prevent it, all to no avail. One of the things we tried to do was to create somewhat of a "buddy patrol" between these guys and the patrol of 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds. That didn't work. Everyone's problem is no one's problem. While the older guys would check on the second-year patrol from time to time, that wasn't what the patrol needed. The second-year guys really needed another year under their belts working along side older guys.

    Sorry, but my real solution to these problems is to mix these guys up with the older, more experienced guys.


    • #3

      I gotta do a big ditto on 2Cub's post. The reasons why my troop stopped doing NSPs were 2 and 5. There is no solution to problem 2 that I can see. The only solution to 5 that I can see is getting more folks to help the TG work with the NSP. But that causes other problems, i.e. boredom of the older scouts, to many folks working with the NSP and not the other patrols, etc. Again splitting the NSP into existing patrols worked out easier.

      Problem 1 actually has a simple solution: SPL stops everything until the horseplay stops. I remember many a nite the SPL saying, "Gentlemen your wasting your game time" as we would not have game time until all the work was over with. Longer it took to do whatever we were doing the less game time we had. peer pressure is a wonderful thing.

      Only solutions I saw to Problems 3 and 4 are A) TG actually being the patrol leader and B) ASM involvement. Both solutions take away from the patrol electing their own PLs and having little adult involvement.


      • #4
        Not to be snarky back :-), I'ld like to keep this thread away from any comparison of age based and mixed age patrols. There are plenty of other threads for that. Lets keep this one for sharing of experiences in making age based patrols work. Keep it friendly, no "yah but...the other way is better."

        Yes, SPL stopping the meeting is an effective method; I was thinking about PL keeping his patrol from being disruptive; forgot about the SPL controlling the entire troop when the PL is unable to do it.

        I agree with using the TG; we only used them for a 6 month period. Perhaps they needed to stay with the patrol for a longer period of time.


        • #5
          The age based patrols aren't as workable for younger Scouts. As far as my experience, they don't end very well. As Boys get older, basically forming Venture Patrols, it works. But it's a hard thing to operate with younger boys. If you assign an older boy to lead em, then it's a mixed age patrol then.


          • #6
            A number of "mega" troops make da age based thing work well, eh?

            They run two or three NSPs on da strength of their best older scouts as TGs / effective PLs, with ASM-NSPs who really work well with that age. Then da NSP "division" of da troop runs its own campouts tailored to their needs and functions semi-autonomously from da rest of the troop. They would argue that this makes for a smoother transition from da den setup of cub scouting (keeps da den of friends intact, keeps da Den Chief/Den leader structure in place with TG/ASM, etc.)

            Then as Sentinel947 mentions, there's a high school "division" where those patrols become Venture patrols. Usually by then they merge or consolidate a bit, but that group runs their own deal as well, eh? A bit like a Venturing Crew. High school focus, post-advancement.

            Middle group is often da weakness in such systems, and sees some attrition and such, for some of da reasons mentioned. So it stays a bit adult run at that level, usually with an ASM assigned to each patrol (den leader light).

            So in Venividi's scheme:
            1) Handled through more direct adult involvement, with older scouts servin' in adult-like roles rather than as patrol members.
            2) Mega-troops are big enough to have multiple patrols at each level, so yeh can have patrol competition within da "division".
            3) Younger boys do "leader light". Just da basics, not real leadership which is provided by adults and older scouts servin' in adult roles.
            4) Still a problem, but not as much because PL is less work with more adult support. Often there's a JASM or ASPL for each division as well.
            5) Usually da adults recruit boys for the TG / ASPL for younger division / JASM / Instructor roles. They try to make those jobs high prestige, with adult-like perqs (eat with adults, special recognitions, etc.)
            6) Attrition is still an issue, but they try not to consolidate until da HS / high adventure level.



            • #7
              "5) Usually da adults recruit boys for the TG / ASPL for younger division / JASM / Instructor roles. They try to make those jobs high prestige, with adult-like perks (eat with adults, special recognitions, etc.) "

              I was following you up until there. I don't think I've ever even heard of that before. Perhaps you have? I'd find that shocking. Not shocking in a good way mind you.


              • #8

                I know the focus has been on the NSP, but as Beav pointed out, your middle and esp older scouts can have stagnation.

                Ways to keep the older scout interested is A) let them run the troop, B) have opportunities for them to do their own thing either on their own weekend, or possibly on the same weekend as the troop, just doing a special activity: their own hike, own campsite away from others, etc. C) Team up with other troops in the district and council for HA.


                • #9
                  Because a patrol is supposed to be, and operates best as, a group of friends, we need friend-based patrols and no others. At least aim at the right target.


                  • Sentinel947
                    Sentinel947 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I agree TAHAWK.

                • #10
                  It's really a shame when high adventure rolls around and half the patrol can't go because they aren't old enough. After hassling about reorganizing a HA patrol of guys not used to working together, and after a short hassle, the issue is dropped and so the boys all go to the same old summer camp they have been going to for the past 6 years. Multiple aged patrols seem to all work off the lowest common denominator and eventually the older boys just seem to "give up".


                  • #11
                    @VV: Sorry if I am missing your definitions here but I assume by "age-based" patrols were are talking about both NSPs and "younger Scout patrols" (11-13 yr olds)?

                    My troop uses younger boy patrols (5) and two older boy patrols (14-17). When we crossed over three years ago one of those older boy patrols basically never has camped out. Their gear is basically new and unused. It has been like that since 2006 when our troop instituted the current patrol construct. The other older boy patrol is a bit more active but dwindling. We have a very active younger boy group. My current problem is that our age demographic is shifting, so that the 13 year old category is significantly larger than the other age groups and moving those scouts into the older boy patrols will 1) weaken the younger boy patrols, and 2) will make the older boy patrols very large. Like others, our troop suffers from inactivity in that older boy age group. Obviously we are trying to keep the boys active, keep the younger boy patrols viable, and make sure leadership at all levels is active and effective.

                    To be honest I am thinking of going to an integrated patrol structure. My scouts from 11-16 are very active. My older scouts work well with my younger scouts. I fear moving them up will kill that synergy. We are playing with an HA patrol where you earn your way in to it through leadership, service hours, being active and being 14.

                    For us our history has shown that the older boy patrol construct leads to apathy and inactivity. We have not changed this structure since 2006 and everything we try to change that has not worked. Rather than go to a new boy patrol -- because as a unit we don't believe in that system - the solution above is the current idea we are toying with to address our issues and some of the issues noted in this thread.


                    • #12
                      Our high adventure outings have requirements, set by the Scouts, around being ready - not age as such: First Aid MB; First Class; pass swim test. The chance to go pulls them up and holds none back. Those requirements are known almost a year in advance. The Patrol Method is based on friendship. The dividing kids into patrol by adults is based on something else.


                      • #13
                        What I have seen:

                        Den bridges over to an assigned Patrol Leader for the first 6 months. Said Patrol Leader is often someone who is First Class and ready to take on a team. That provides the leadership. VERY dependent on the initial assigned PL.

                        A good Troop Guide can be added to supplement, or instead of the assigned PL.

                        Scoutmaster stepping in more than usually desired. I held a small Patrol meeting where the Patrol was not following their elected leader. I told them, "You elected him. It is your obligation to show the respect you initially gave him when you elected him." This message is partially successful - not 100%, but it reminds boys of their obligations as followers as well as leaders - a good lesson I find necessary to teach annually at least.