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Patrols for Summer Camp

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Our troop is very excited to have 17 first year scouts giving us 36 boys. Traditionally Summer Camp is where the boys really start fitting in with the troop. This year is also a Philmont year for us. So 2 of our senior leaders (SM,ASM) will not be attending the full summer camp. Our former SM will come, but he doesn't know our first year scouts.


I am former ASM, now CC and going to camp for full week, previously did 1/2. SM is trying to recruit more than 3 adults we have now to go.


Our troop has been slowly, excruciatingly learning about the Patrol Method. What do you guys think about setting up Patrols for Summer camp alone. I have 7 older/experienced scouts (3 of which are also going to Philmont) and 4 scouts going to camp for the second year. This shouldn't be the permanent patrols because we will be missing several other experienced scouts who couldn't afford time, money or both to do summer camp and Philmont.


So in my own self-defense (poor excuse) I thought we could set up 3 patrols with the experienced scouts leading each and mentoring the first years which would make the adults job easier and encourage the boys to enforce camp rules. Since our boys are in the early stages of learning to be boy led, I'm looking for more good advice.


Before you rehash what you've said already I want to thank the following for these words of advice I have picked up through the forum.


From Beavah:

Patrol Leader teach it by word and example. The goal is to turn over camp tasks and hikes to the kids first.

From Eagledad

A few examples are we think like that the Patrol Leaders have to get their patrol up and in formation to do a Troop flag ceremony before we hike down to the Camp Flag Ceremony. We ask that scouts only come to Flag as a patrol. That forces the PL leader to get the scouts organized to bring them to the Troop Flag. Typically our troop arrives to the Camp Ceremony late the first couple of days. The embarrassment encourages the Patrol leaders to build better team work and to seek out guidience is they need some from the SPL. We don't allow the adults to follow or lead scouts to their classes. We want the scouts to learn how to seek out help there and and develop independence. Scouts are not allowed to leave camp without telling the patrol leader first. That sounds simple, it actually requires team work and understanding who is the responsible leader at the time because the PL is likely in class somewhere. IT is frustrating at first, but the patrol quickly learns how to create a roster so that there is always someone who is responsible in camp when needed.

We have a PLC every day so that the SPL pass along new camp information and to remind the PLs of our troop programs like a game, troop campfire and usually a troop swim or shoot. The SPL always volunteers our troop to do a Camp Flag ceremony, clean up detail, and a camp service project.

From nwsscouttrainer

When fighting broke out this past weekend, he made all of the participants stop and recite the scout law then discuss how they were violating it. He then reminded them that as scouts, their adherence to the Oath and Law was required just as much as being able to tie knots, build fires or complete a five mile hike when it comes to earning rank. If they cannot display behavior in accordance with the Oath and Law, they may not be ready to be awarded First or Second Class Rank.

From ozemu

Getting along with each other is a main part of Scouting. This behaviour is a gift for us to explore that in detail and very personally. Scouting is not about MB's and camping skills (great though those things are).

This behaviour should be the focus of the Troop/Patrol and the SM and ASM's should have it as priority #1.

From anarchist:

Adult leaders need to remember that scouting has many competing activities and unless we are willing to go the extra mile..with guidelines, deadlines, call me back ticklers how can we expect it to trickle down? Sure it is more work but we must constantly stand at the scouts elbow and softly make corrections, hints and suggestions...even lending a gentle hand occasionally to avoid setting the troop up for constant failure...as we train the older scouts we may find time to stand back but only rarely do we actually get to sit down to drink our coffee...And yes as it has been said hundreds of thousands of times...boy led is more work and more chaos for the adults than a Webelos III troop program...but if we really believe in the Boy Led idea we need to support it with the extra work...

From Kudu http://www.inquiry.net/patrol/leaders_creed.htm


Thanks!!! Sprite (PS this was my first Camp Counselor name--I was a long time Girl Scout.)


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"Our troop has been slowly, excruciatingly learning about the Patrol Method. What do you guys think about setting up Patrols for Summer camp alone."


I think it is great whenever a troop chooses to implement the patrol method. Too often everything takes places as one big group, with "patrols" being nothing more than the line boys stand in for the opening of the troop meeting.


A patrol is not an animal uniform patch and shell structure that we fill with boys and a patrol leader. A patrol is 6-8 individual specific named boys that do Scouting together. They camp together, work together, eat together, support one another, and go to summer camp together. It is the basic unit in a troop, the "troop" being nothing more than a collection of unique patrols.


The patrol method does not involve adding or subtracting patrol members or shuffling patrols for an event, or for every challenge or difficulty that comes along. The patrol does not end because one or two boys miss an event.


We dont populate patrols to make things run smoothly or to make things easier for adults. A patrol does not need an experienced member to lead it and mentor it. It needs 6-8 boys committed to one another. If a patrol has a patrol leader that is young and inexperienced, and the patrol flounders, the SPL can assign a patrol guide to help the PL and the patrol.


Event-based "patrols" are ultimately destructive to the patrol method. My suggestion is for the boys to form their patrols without any thought about summer camp. Its the job of the SPL and adult leaders to help these patrols be successful.

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Yah, I'm with FScouter, eh? In general you should avoid setting up temporary patrols just for summer camp. A patrol is a permanent group.


Now, if you're gettin' a big influx of kids and just movin' into using patrol method, it can be a real plus to set up your permanent patrols before camp. That way, camp can really reinforce and "jump start" patrol method for the rest of the year.


But if yeh already have permanent patrols, you should... even "must".... use them at camp. Every time you break the patrol method because someone is missing or it seems more convenient from an adult perspective, it takes three times as long to rebuild it. If you're findin' that patrols aren't big enough so that they break down on some outings, then make each patrol a bit bigger until they're consistently "viable" on every trip.




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My excitement dimmed when I read FScouters reply. Our SM took over our troop in this last year and is working to instill the boy led troop and patrol method. It is a long road.


Currently our patrols are just what FScouter identified as standing on the lines. Our experience with Patrol Guides have been less than spectacular over the years to the point that we incorporated the newer scouts into our existing patrols. In my son's patrol, the PL rarely came to meetings or PLC meetings.


As a result the new scouts (mostly from 2 packs) don't feel a particular affiliation with the patrols. What I am hoping is to give our 6 more senior scouts (rising 8-11 graders) leadership experience and reduce pressure on the Acting Senior Patrol Leader when duties are assigned. These young men have exhibited mentoring behaviors toward the younger scouts on previous camp outs.


So my question is does what we have constitute "permanent" patrols? My suspicion is that this training/organization exercise will lead to firming up the patrols for the year yet allow for flexibility once they understand how to function within the group. Camp duties could be assigned by group rather than scout. On the other hand, if we maintain the status quo, with most of our senior scouts not attending, how should we deal with one patrol having 3 scouts, another having 9 all rising 6th graders.


I've seen other posts mentioning rewards for camp skill/duty performance. In either case, what expectations do you recommend we set for the acting leaders? Regardless, the prime goal from my point of view is to make Summer Camp a safe, enjoyable experience for ALL our scouts and to help our young scouts make the transistion into the troop.



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Yah, Sprite, I think you'll find camp to be a safe, enjoyable experience no matter what, eh?! BSA camps are really set up to encourage individual and troop activity, rather than patrol method, so you'll find that it's fairly easy to adapt no matter how you're configured patrol-wise. So relax a bit! It's gonna be fine. Biggest thing to think about with a big group of 1st-year boys is havin' a lot of resources to encourage "small successes" and to address homesickness.


There's two different ways to think about patrols. Some of us here advocate "traditional" BSA patrol method, where boys in a patrol are mixed-age. Older boys lead, middle-aged boys mentor, younger lads follow. Patrol competitions abound. Think of patrols like "Houses" at Hogwarts (probably where BP got the idea, from British Public Schools). Your older lads who show mentoring behavior would be natural PL's and APL's in such a system.


Alternate way is da "modern" BSA method, where patrols are grouped by grade level. First-year lads become part of one (or in your case, two!) New Boy Patrols. Each gets one or two older boys assigned as "Troop Guide" to help mentor the boys in that patrol. Patrol competitions? Not so much, but yeh do preserve age-based friendships from cub dens, and have a natural group to work on advancement together, especially for their first year.


Either way can work just fine, but it's not clear to me which you are usin'. Sounds like it might be the latter if you've got 9 first year boys in one patrol. In that case, I'd get da SM and SPL to recruit/assign two good older boys who are fun and good mentors to that patrol as Troop Guides (9 is a lot for just one TG, and I think TG's have more fun if they have a buddy). Meet with those TG's before camp to talk about how best to support da young guys. They'll know better than you will! So just tell 'em you're really counting on 'em to handle that, and they'll rise to the occasion. Make cocoa and dessert for 'em each night at camp while yeh talk to 'em about how things are goin', just so they feel like they're a special part of da "adult/leadership team" so to speak, and you're golden.


Now, after camp, your assignment as CC is to go with your SM and ASMs to Woodbadge, to learn more about Patrol Method. And then to make sure that each patrol has its own camping gear so that it can camp together on every outing as a separate, individual patrol rather than a "whole troop." Yeh do those two things, and you'll be on your way to makin' patrols somethin' more than how you line up.




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Why not have the scouts select the patrol they want to be in for Summer Camp and then make them the "permanent" patrols? They will have the camp session to gel as a patrol in a way they can't be done any other time

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I am a fan of the traditional patrol method. This way at least some of the old guys get to know the new younger scouts and what their skill sets are. This way they will be better equiped to deal with people of different ages and skill sets in life.


If your patrols are already organized, keep them the way they are. If their patrol leader/assistant patrol leader is not there, have some one in the patrol fill in temporarily just for summer camp. If need be, assign an older scout to advise the "new" patrol leader during summer if needed. This will help build their leadership. The temporary position from summer camp may just get them elected at the next troop elections if they do well.

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We used our redesigned patrols (4) at summer camp. Our 6 Philmont bound scouts took on leadership with some relunctance but were willing. The 11 first year scouts had a few bumps in learning buddy system and patrol, but they got it!! And I saw gains in the leaders as well. Boys who previously ignored younger scouts, engaged them and exhibited responsibility.


I am very proud of them all. The Scouts gelled in their patrols and WANT to continue them.


Using the postings I previously read and the patrol leaders guidebook, I gave each leader a spiral memo book. Had the patrols ride up to camp together and charged each Patrol Leader to get to know his patrol members and what they are looking forward to at camp and what they are afraid of.


Best laid plans often go awry. Before we got out of town, we had an equipment failure with the trailer and had to shuffle scouts. Nevertheless we got the patrol leaders to group their scouts anytime we were moving as a troop and the duty roster was assigned by patrol.


As adults, we advised and delegated to the scout chain of command frequently. We held the patrol leaders responsible. And counselled a couple of boys on alternative ways to handle the difficult situations they found themselves in.


Now our younger scouts are not only looking to the older scouts as leaders, they are aspiring to be leaders too. Great time!!

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