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Wow, this is a lot of great information...
I saw a post earlier in another thread about a guy that revamped the troop pretty much from the ground up... and we are pretty much looking at some of the same issues...
I will say this... not having the experience of some of the folks here... and not wanting to experiment on a whole group of kids... I really do see the merits of both as laid out in these posts...
It however, in my mind comes back to what is the best thing for the scouts and what will most get them ready to "be scouts" in more than name and later be Eagles that hold the standards of an Eagle in more than just name.
I certainly see the merits of the integrated in age troop learning to be sensitive to all ages, not just the ones that make us feel comfortable.
This is some awesome information and I really appreciate all the good input.
- Jun 2005
Yah, sthumper, good on yeh for thinkin' deeply on this. One of da truths of scouting is that as an adult yeh can't really teach a boy anything, eh? All yeh can do is set up da circumstances so that it is more likely that he will learn.
Da art of Patrol Method is settin' up da circumstances so that it is more likely that the boys will learn.
So a lot of da choice of how yeh set things up depends on exactly what yeh want boys to learn. Da BSA was mixed-age patrols for most of its history. Same - age patrols are a relatively recent notion that came in 1990 and has a mixed record. Most of us old timers tend to prefer mixed age, and of course most of da troops in the country are relatively small and are mixed-age by default. I think, though, based on da goals you seem to have for your boys, mixed-age patrols are the best choice. They make da jobs of PL and APL real, eh? Those older boys have genuine responsibility to really lead.
Now to your questions.
Yep, da oldest boys who learned that Scouting was about hanging around with your buddies instead of learning leadership and service will fight you. While I disagree with Eagledad on da bit about kids getting all their wiring set in puberty, there's a bit of truth to it. Yeh have to work harder with the older lads to change their view through inspiration and example, and yeh will lose a few.
Da way to do things is on the rewards side. Make the PLC something special. Your older boys will naturally be PLs. Have PLC-only outings where yeh do high-adventury stuff and some troop planning work. Take high-performing PLC boys on exploration trips to check out possible new activities. This gives 'em some time with peers, but da time is focused on how to really be men - how to be strong and lead others. Make these tough, eh? 20 miles of rolling hills with packs. . And then challenge 'em to get their patrols to do 5 miles. Lots of adults prefer age-based patrols because they can't learn to treat older boys as peers and fellow leaders, eh? As men instead of boys. Keep 'em all together and they're a group of boys. Let 'em really lead younger boys and now they're doin' the same job as ASMs, eh? Yeh have to think of 'em and treat 'em as men.
Use some special outings to really train your older scout PLs. Yeh have to make them comfortable and confident if they are goin' to lead. Not comfortable with organizational charts or job descriptions, but with actually doin' stuff. Is da troop going canoeing? When are yeh going to get the PLs and APLs out canoeing in advance to practice both skills and leading?
As VeniVidi suggests, one of da biggest advantages of mixed-age patrols is that yeh can have real patrol competitions. That leads to real patrol spirit. Use it. Regular, ongoin' competition.
Separate patrols, and give patrols that are gettin' it together more freedom. Let 'em hike on their own without adults. Let 'em plan their own patrol outing(s). Make this always "for patrols that are ready", in part as a safety thing, but mostly as genuine recognition of their teamwork and that yeh trust their PL as a man.
Yep, extra work required scouts are an issue. Only da best of your older boys can handle some of that sort, and even they can get burned out. Yeh need to task out adults to each such boy. Can be parents, can be someone else, but whoever it is needs to be consistent. Long-term relationships matter in helpin' such lads along.
Nope, given what yeh say your goals are for personal growth in your troop, I think da mixed-age setup will be a stronger one for yeh long-term. I wouldn't suggest goin' back to same-age, nor would I recommend goin' to wide-open, as your goals aren't compatible with leavin' a bunch of young kids behind or all da misfits together. Yeh won't be happy with that, and you'll want to interfere to stop it, which just makes things adult-run. Remember, da goal is to set up conditions that make it more likely for the boys to learn, not for you to do it / teach them. For da way yeh are lookin' at things, mixed age is best.
Other thoughts? Keep on keepin' on! You're a real scouter when yeh care enough and think deeply enough that you and the boys are willing to try things and experiment together. Keep your eyes on da prize, and keep tryin' new things until yeh get da results yeh want.
And yah, go read da archives for sure, eh? You'll find a lot of old threads on mixed age vs same age and other patrol method stuff!
Beavah(This message has been edited by Beavah)
- Jun 2006
You are right on with the leadership issue and in spite of the fact that I allow the boys to select their own patrols, I was removed from the SM position because I "expected too much leadership" from the boys. The two are not mutually exclusive. As one who firmly believes in leading by example, and not just on the part of the adults, I found that the Troop Office "patrol" more often than not demonstrated to the other older boys this concept of leadership you are talking about. However, they were in that "patrol" by choice and not forced to "help out with the younger scouts." Yes, theoretically on paper, the older boy should be helping, but one is never going to get all-the-time 100% compliance with that. The SPL works constantly with the other PL's regardless of their patrol mix/non-mix. The QM works with the patrol QM's to make sure they have their equipment sorted out, the TG(s) work with the younger boys constantly, especially when they are first starting out.
What I have seen happen is that when "some" of the other older boys (i.e. Troop Officer patrol) are getting accolades for their efforts and the younger boys connect with them, the more selfish-do-your-own-thing older boy patrols begin to alienate themselves and will eventually begin to "follow" the leadership of the other older boys so they don't end up on the outside looking in. Nobody at that age really wants to be a social outsider.
Yes, there are going to be some of the older boys who are not mature, inclined, or whatever that never engage the younger boys, but because their buddies are there, sometimes even they will "help out" with an activity their buddy is doing with the younger boys. Not all boys are socially mature to handle one-on-one with the younger boys, and to penalize them generally means voting with their feet to a more comfortable place in life.
What one has to remember is that there is no real "generic" scout out there. They are all different, starting with age, and moving on to social skills and eventually leadership skills. Now a single patrol might be "age" segregated, but still there will be major variations in social and leadership skills. Too often we focus on just one aspect, i.e. age and pigeon-hole the boys accordingly without taking into consideration that is but one minor aspect of the issue.
Other than scouting, how many opportunities have the boys been given in trans-aged groups? Maybe their church group, but definitely not in our educational system where a senior in high school has very much contact with middle school "buddies" as he is expected to do in scouting.
Play to the strengths of these boys and quit fighting some arbitrary "rule" that some adult has come up with to mix and match that which is not normally meant to be mixed and matched.
It's difficult to "trust" the boys to make the correct choices in patrol selection, and if they are making those choices, they also have the responsibility to fix things when it goes south. It's part of the learning process that is necessary with a boy-led program.
>>I will say this... not having the experience of some of the folks here... and not wanting to experiment on a whole group of kids....
Again, really great thoughts on this subject... I have started searching the threads for more information and one of the struggles that I fight to overcome so that we can help create the ideal troop (which probably will only be attainable for 30 seconds till another issue arises)...
Part of me mentally fights some of the concepts of the whole "boy led troop" from the perspective as I have seen it implemented in many situations.
I believe I am beginning to understand the concept that a leader is struggling to find in the balance of a properly "boy led troop" and using the patrol method to accomplish this, but I think a lot of implementations that I have seen in troops throw the boys into leadership with out the proper guidance, leadership training. In other words the leaders fail on the "Explain" and the "Demonstrate" part of the EDGE method of teaching.
They are expecting the young men to figure this out and automatically start Guiding and Enabling younger scouts when the older scouts have not been properly taught themselves.
I think the most exciting thing that I have taken away from this post at this point (and I may glean more as I reread and search other threads) is that I need to start by focusing on the following.
Begin to look at the boys who naturally show desire to grow in leadership roles (especially the younger ones) and begin to help them get properly training and equipping then to become the future leaders of the troop.
Make sure the adults who are currently in place are also trained and understand what we are trying to accomplish (get on the same page).
Find available local organized training for the scouts and start using it a couple of guys at a time.
Don't expect changes overnight.
On a different note I will say I found it interesting yesterday when I started doing a little digging on the "Green Bar Bill" and who he was and his history with scouts...
Scouting as a whole has been through as many transitions over the years and some they have considered a success and some a failure. They have focused on "scout craft" as the way to accomplish growth and then they have focused on "leadership training" as the way to experience growth.
All that to say... I guess you have to keep the main thing the main thing... lead by a great example, demonstrate the scout oath and law, make a place where kids can have a ton of fun and they will probably learn a lot in the mean time...
Seems like there truly is a ton of ways to skin a cat.
- Apr 2013
- Jun 2005
I think you are on the right track, though I would caution against an over-reliance on training. (I recognize that I may be inferring improperly from the frequent mention of training in your last post).
As training chair, I've had many discussions with people whose solution to "whatever issue" is training. Yes, training is necessary, in context, and when the person to be trained is ready for the lesson. This has been the case for both adult and youth - if there is an issue, many people want to address it by adding it to training.
However, my observations is that training is no substitute for mentoring, nor for the careful consideration and setting up of an environment where learning takes place on it's own. Adults have the benefit of being able to sit down together to discuss a problem and possible solutions, though they are as likely to need someone to pull them together for a guided discussion as the youth are.
>>They are expecting the young men to figure this out and automatically start Guiding and Enabling younger scouts when the older scouts have not been properly taught themselves.
- Aug 2008
My troop used mixed age a patrols. We did the new scout patrol twice, once was a failure, the second time the NSP was a new troop piggybacking on us until they could move on. They ended up merging with us.
Depending upon the number of Scouts, we had 3-4 patrols: 2-3 mixed age and 1 older scout patrol at the time called a Leadership Corps, and they were the troop officers: scribe ASPL, instructors, etc.
We began integrating when the Webelos visited. We had them divided amongst the patrols during the meeting visit, but on the overnight camp out, which traditionally is a "wilderness survival" camp out, we would partner them up with an Scout in one of the mixed age patrols, and they were a member of that patrol for the weekend. When the time came to join the troop, they usually went to their buddy's patrol. Every 6 months, you could switch patrols if you wanted to and elections were held. Most of the time, once you were a Raven, a Hawk, or an Eagle, you stayed with that patrol until selected to join the Leadership Corps. Or the troop grew or shrunk.
Now the Leadership Corps had some requirements: at least 6 months, preferably 1 year as a PL, First Class or higher, and the LC members had to vote you in. LC usually ran the meetings and camp outs. BUT they also did their own thing too. Sometimes when the opportunity presented itself, the troop would be doing one thing, and the LC with an adult (this was pre-YP in most cases) would do their own thing. I remember doing more challenging trails at Vickburg and Pensacola.
Eventually the LC became a venture crew/patrol, then a Venturing Crew. When they became a Crew, they still worked with the troop, it was in the crew's by-laws, but periodically they would do their own Crew activity.