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  1. Swamp Base

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    • The general rule in my boys' troop (I was one of the ASMs) is that parents didn't sign off anything unless they were the only people permitted to sign it, or it was a matter of troop records on the online system (number of outings, campouts, etc.).  By only person permitted to sign, I mean things like if we had one Environmental Science counselor, then he could sign off on his sons' advancement, etc.  Our SM's sons had their SM conferences with one of the ASMs.    
    • The pros of this is anything that you want to do you'll get the backing of the parents. This is huge in today's world. I'd take a "troop" of these kids in a heartbeat. This is not very well defined. Due to your Free Range Kids activity, I'll assume this has nothing to do with the BSA (although I wish this mindset would infect the BSA) and is really about offering some scouty things to the FRK community. The pros are the kids want to, and have to, take ownership. Since they've been encouraged to do this from a young age they will be more accepting of it. This is really big. A con is those children that come in to this late. The kid that has been taught to cross busy streets when they were 7 knows how to take care of him/herself, but might not know how to deal with the new kid that's not paying attention to the walk lights. Ranks in the BSA used to handle this. A First Class scout could take care of himself in the outdoors. Not so much now. So you'll have to figure this out. If this indeed is more based on FRK then one pro is that advancement really is just a method. If a kid wants to advance then they figure out how to do that. It's not front and center. Adult association is both a pro and a con in scouts. Teaching the youth the skills they need to safely engage in the adventures they want is a big pro. Reinforcing scout ideals is also important. Helping the scouts come up with ideas for adventure is also beneficial. Beyond that it's likely a con. Institutional knowledge (outdoor skills, regular outings) is created with the typical troop's existing calendars.  Without that there can be a loss of knowledge to the youth. There might be a lot less service, but there could be more if the youth enjoyed it. Things like camporees and merit badge fairs would likely fade away. (mostly a pro) Summer camp would be about fun. (huge pro). The outdoors might get a lot less interest but maybe the youth would find something else, such as music or a sport. That could drive some youth out. So, you can't do what the GSUSA did and drop the outdoors. Camping is still fun. Sounds interesting. Keep us informed.  
    • Hi @Kudu, thanks for coming back to stir the pot! I've meet a few such lone patrols (LP). Thanks to a relative's cabin or farm and a generally free-and-open city and state park system, Western PA is rife with youth going hiking and camping independently with their mates. The recently instituted requirements for, and legalistic definitions of, adult supervision, make BSA a very hard sell for an LP. But, absent those here's my observation: The Pro's of of a (LP) joining a troop: Metrics: the LP may now have an objective rating of their performance through competition and sharing of reports. Ethics: the LP may now acquire a common set of ideals with which to challenge themselves and other patrols. Association: the LP may now access their community's most dedicated adults and get constructive feedback on any plans and designs. Materials: the LP now has access to more/better materials through bulk purchases and shared maintenance. Fellowship: members of LP can feel isolated. It may turn out that their LP stinks -- or he/she stinks in the opinion of that patrol. In a troop, the observant LP member can request transfer to another patrol. The Con's: Abdication of Real leadership. In an LP, if you don't serve your mates well, they'll invest their time elsewhere -- there's an immediate cost to failing to lead. Joining a troop provides the temptation to pass on real leadership. The former LP may bank on the troop to take up slack, and repeatedly drawing on those reserves will leave the LP with nothing of distinction. Clumsiness. Free-range patrols drive their parents nuts because they make plans quickly as soon as they see openings in schedules. Troops demand that patrols stop and think about their next move. The other patrols might have expectations. At the very least the LP will have to seriously consider meeting those expectations. More often, that is not a question of "if", but "how." Infrastructure burden. All LP members can quickly agree to use one media platform. E.g., they may meet at a particular park bench every morning. To offset clumsiness, a troop needs to maintain a more permanent presence, and the LP must now contribute to that maintenance by providing QMs, TGs, JASMs, Scribes, Librarians, Buglers, etc ...  
    • Pros are faster bonding and more growth from individual decisions. Con is the challenge for continued growth and maturing as scouts get older and more experienced.  Barry
    • You pose such interesting questions.   I'll be interested to see what others think, and to see whether my thinking changes as I puzzle about this more.   I have the feeling that there's something here I can use to shine light on some problems I observed between my two troops this weekend. I'll make a first proposition that the cons are almost completely circumscribed by the observation that joining a troop creates more opportunities for damaging loss of autonomy and conflict.   Even in a troop composed of similarly free-range patrols, the more cooks there are, the more chance for spoiling the soup.  Yes, that can be a learning experience, but if one assumes that free-range patrols have more internally-consistent "personalities" across the patrol than patrols constructed by adult fiat, then it's possible for those personalities to come into conflict in such a way that it passes beyond a learning experience and enters the realm of destructive.  I would assume that the natural tendency in a free-range troop would be for such mutually-incompatible patrols to simply dissociate themselves, but, human beings are not well-known for making the wisest decisions, and quite a lot of damage can be done before wisdom is earned. There would appear to be quite a range of pros, from mundane better access to resources or expertise, to improving patrol cohesiveness because human teams tend to function better when there is an "other" against which to compete or measure themselves.  
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