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Girl Planning and progression in using the patrol system

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Good morning folks!

I posted my version of a patrol leader manual to a couple folks on here - email me at avarberg@yahoo.com if you would like it also.


I thought now would be a good time to talk about more of the "how to do it" - how do we use the patrol system to move a troop towards more girl planning? Every trained GS leader has probably seen that graph - the Girl/Adult Partnership. On the other hand, current GS training is light on the actual practicalities of how to make this happen! So let's talk about that :)


I always gotta start from troop size - tiny troops will almost always be entirely adult-directed - this has happened in my own troop! increasing the number of girls allows more space between patrols and the troop leader - space in which they can "talk amongst themselves". so recruiting will need to be ongoing until you're up to around 21 (21 allows for 3 or 4 good-sized patrols)


Meanwhile...how do you use your patrol leaders during the time you're trying to build the troop to full strength?

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Some more ideas:


1. developing a troop annual calendar: include SU events, have all school schedules on hand


2. Brainstorming: use badge topics as a jumping off point for coming up with challenging program ideas then flesh it out by deleoping plans that allow progression in skill


3. Get outside and get active: girls who are more physically active will be more able to show initiative and more exposure to what's out there will give them more to draw from when triyng to come up with ideas of things to do


4. ideas for leader-initiated activities to "prime the pump": go on a short hike, have a cook-out, volunteer at a community event, or visit a nature center - each of these lends itself to saying - what could we do next? A longer hike, learn more ways to cook outdoors, explore another natural area or another way to give service. Bring in copies of community newspapers - show them where they can get ideas: turn to the community calendar page, visit websites - give them the tools.

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Well, I introduced the patrol method to the girls yesterday, and they loved it.


I though long and hard bou how to divide up the girls, and decided I wanted to avoid the "popularity contest" method of determiing patrol members (PL's pick members in a chooseing up sides kind of process). I ended up divvying scouts more or less according to "geographic" origin. One patrol is mostly from the same school, one is mostly from the same church -- this way they can communicate a bit easier in between meetings. I also split a couple of sisters, so they wouldn't be in the same patrol.


I brought in patrol flags that I had made from remnent rip-stop nylon, pennant style, and pinned a plain colored 6" paper circle to. I explained that we were too big now to easily plan and do some activities as a big group, and that the patrols would work together on that sort of thing. We were decorating t-shirts for our "activity" uniform, so I bought some 2" ribbon in the patrol colors (yellow and blue) and they glued a bit of ribbon in their patrol color on the right sleeve.


Next week we will vote for Patrol leaders, and I will have a "open" court of honor so everyone can see what one will be like.


So I have one week to put together PL notebooks and handbooks. YIKES :)


The scouts were pretty excited about the patrols, I even heard comments like, "we should see which patrol can sell more cookies at the booth tomorrow!"

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My God! What a revolutionary concept. I wish that my son's boy scout troop would use it :-)


Good luck. Keep us posted.


"So I have one week to put together PL notebooks and handbooks."


Maybe you could ask the PLs to assist.

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Is there a GSA "Irving"? Do they have any say in this? I'm not complaining, I think it's great, I just havta play What If...


And if a BSA Troop decided to use the 'traditional' GSA model, what WOULD Irving say? Or do? Or are there BSA Troops that already DO use the 'traditional GSA model, and maybe don't realize it?


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SSscout, let me help clear things up for you :)

First off, there is no such thing as GSA. We are Gir lScouts of the USA, or abbreviated GSUSA. Our headquarters are in NYC.


Secondly, the "traditional" GSUSA model is the patrol system. Reference any GSUSA handbook from 1912 up to the present, and, although the information has become scant, it is still in our present-day handbooks.


Historically, GS troops were large enough to fully implement the patrol system. Numbers declined, leaders began leading only single-grade level troops, troop size declined, so GSUSA now also advocates two other troop government models: the town meeting, and the steering committee or executive board. See http://www.geocities.com/heartland/Pointe/9385/govt.htm for a pretty good overview.


Hope this helps!

Anne in Mpls

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Cheerful Eagle writes:


"Well, I introduced the patrol method to the girls yesterday, and they loved it."


It might be helpful to make a distinction between how Boy Scout programs use the terms "Patrol System" (as in the title of this thread) and "Patrol Method" (as in some of the posts).


The Patrol System is Baden-Powell's method of Scouting. In this system the Scouts run the Troop. The Court of Honor (not an adult committee) owns the bank accounts and the COH qualifies Scouts for the Tenderfoot through First Class Awards as well as granting older Scouts permission to meet with outside Proficiency Badge examiners. Therefore competency is the number one priority in the selection of Patrol Leaders. When for some reason it is necessary to find a new one, the Scoutmaster is required to meet with that Patrol (or with the Court of Honor) and discuss the possible choices with the understanding that he will only appoint the Patrol's most qualified leader.


The Patrol Method was not introduced to the BSA until September 21, 1923 (as "a radical change in the management of troops"). It reached its purest form under William Hillcourt who brought to the BSA from his native Denmark an understanding of how Patrols are supposed to work. Due to the established legacy of strict adult control, Scouts did not control the bank accounts nor the awarding of Scoutcraft Awards (these powers would come to be called "Adult Association"). Under Hillcourt competency became an important priority in the selection of Patrol Leaders but required diplomacy because of Patrol elections, a legacy of the adult control era prior to 1923 in which Patrol Leaders were powerless team captains. Competency during Hillcourt's reign was not the problem that it is now because elections only occurred when a Patrol actually needed a new Patrol Leader.


In both B-P's Patrol System and Hillcourt's Patrol Method, the Patrol Leaders run the Patrols and if a Senior Patrol Leader is needed to coordinate their efforts, the Patrol Leaders (not the entire Troop) select him in the Court of Honor.


The competency era of the Patrol Method came to end after the retirement of William Hillcourt and the introduction of frequent, regular elections to feed the new "Position of Responsibility" requirements for advancement and the subsequent imposition of abstract "Leadership Development" training which replaced Patrol activities based "Patrol Leader Training."


Cheerful Eagle writes:


"I though long and hard about how to divide up the girls, and decided I wanted to avoid the "popularity contest" method of determining patrol members (PL's pick members in a choosing up sides kind of process). I ended up divvying scouts more or less according to "geographic" origin. One patrol is mostly from the same school, one is mostly from the same church -- this way they can communicate a bit easier in between meetings."


Very Good! What you have done here is make it possible for the Patrols to meet on their own without adult drivers! During the Patrol Method's golden era under Hillcourt, such adult-free activities were both the goal and the content of "Patrol Leader Training."


Cheerful Eagle writes:


"Next week we will vote for Patrol leaders, and I will have a "open" court of honor so everyone can see what one will be like."


You might consider thinking equally "long and hard" about how to avoid the "popularity contest" method of determining Patrol Leaders, just as you did with determining Patrol members.


In the Patrol System you would meet with each Patrol to discuss whom they believe to be their most competent leader. If you make the Patrol Leaders' responsibilities clear beforehand, the prospect of this dialogue and the understanding that you make the final determination is enough to focus their nomination on true leadership.


In the Patrol Method the selection of Patrol Leader is determined by a vote. If I understand the Girl Scout program correctly you do not have Position of Responsibility (POR) requirements for advancement, nor the imposition of "Leadership Development" as a so-called "Method of Scouting." Therefore you can in the future hold single Patrol elections only when they actually need a new Patrol Leader.


These are Hillcourt's suggestions as how to end up with competent Patrol Leaders while working within the Patrol Method's election system. Note the similarity to B-P's Patrol System:


The Scoutmaster's Part


If a very definitely unfortunate selection seems imminent to the Scoutmaster, through his more mature knowledge of the Scout in question, he may decide to call the Patrol together and give it a talk on the necessary qualifications of a Patrol Leader. This talk may even be so designed as to narrow the choice to the boy the Scoutmaster would like to see chosen. Almost invariably the boys will follow suggestions thus diplomatically given-and will feel that they, after all, did the choosing.


A modified election scheme is the method by which two or three boys in each Patrol are nominated by the Scoutmaster or the Troop Leaders' Council and one is elected by a vote of the Patrol.


In some Patrols every boy writes out the names of the fellows he thinks are the three best leaders in his group. The results are not made known directly to the Scouts but practically every boy in the Patrol has some kind of rating placed upon him as a leader. At the Troop Leaders' Council meeting, with all the senior and junior leaders present, the ratings are gone over and it is decided just who will be the best leader for the group. In this way both Scouters and Scouts have a share in deciding who the Patrol Leaders shall be and the possibility of embarrassing situations is eliminated.


In all instances, the appointment of the Patrol Leader should not immediately follow his election or selection. It should be definitely understood that he has to prove his mettle before the appointment is forthcoming. For this reason it is advisable to institute what might be called a "period of probation" during which the Scout is given the chance to prove that he is worthy of the high office of Patrol Leader. This period may be of one month or six weeks' duration, and should seldom be longer (William Hillcourt, Handbook for Scoutmasters, 3rd Ed., Page 184).


Note how important a period of probation was in the competency-based era of the BSA Patrol Method, back when there was no "POR" clock ticking!


At the beginning of the probation you might want to have them recite some adaption of the "Patrol Leaders' Creed" so that everyone understands the criteria by which their actions during the trial period will be judged:




Hope that helps!





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Kudu, thank you for that very detailed explanation - I had not known that "patrol method" was such a departure.


GSUSA has used the term "patrol system" to describe its form of troop government at least since 1947.


Let me get my older handbooks, and go over it a bit..


First, from my facsimile copy of How Girls Can Help Their Country, p. 120 under "Power of Captains" (Captains were our equivalent of troop leaders, adults over the age of 21.)

"A captain appoints her own lieutenants and patrol leaders for one year, when she can either reappoint them or substitute others. She can at any time reduce a patrol leader to corporal or to Scout. Captains have a free hand in all interior administration."


p.121: "A patrol leader is a Scout appointed by a captain (or by vote of the patrol when no captain exists) to command a patrol for one year and should be over fifteen."


When our organization was new, girls could form up patrols on their own, acquire books and supplies and carry on scouting until such time as an adult took an interest, or more than one patrol gathered together into a company, thus requiring a captain.



The next handbook published was in 1920, Scouting for Girls

On p.13 Organization of the Girl Scouts:

Patrol. But the ideal unit and the keystone of the organization is the Patrol, consisting of eight girls who would naturally be associated as friends, neighbors, school fellows or playmates. They are a self selected and, under the regulations and customs of the organization, a self governing little body, who learn, through practical experiment, how to translate into democratic team-play, their recreation, patriotic or community work, camp life and athletics. Definite mastery of the various subjects they select to study is made more interesting by healthy competition and mutual observation.

Patrol leader. Each patrol elects from its members a patrol leader, who represents them and is to a certain extent responsible for the discipline and dignity of the patrol.

Corporal. The patrol leader is assisted by her corporal, who may be either elected or appointed; and as she is subject to re-election at regular intervals, the office is a practical symbol of the democratic basis of our American government and a constant demonstration of it.

(Interestingly, this edition of the handbook describes the Pine Tree Patrol System on p.325, based on the book The Pine Tree Patrol a BSA publication. See http://www.netwoods.com/d-equipment.html for more info. The Pine Tree Patrol System is a fairly cumbersome way of dividing up duties in camp thank goodness we came up with kaper charts! The 1920 handbook is especially amusing for drawing little skirts on the stick figures of the members of the Pine Tree Patrol, and describing how the Senior and Junior serve the inner and outer needs of man! Dear dear...)

I do not have copies of some intervening handbooks in the 30s and early 40s. My next handbook dates from 1947: Girl Scout Handbook: Intermediate Program

Chapter 2, Your Troop and How it Works

First section: The Town Meeting, describes this system of govt. for smaller troops, and also for less experienced troops, outlining how the troop progresses form being led directly by the troop leader to electing its own officers.

The next section: The Patrol System and the rest of the chapter explains the patrol system in more detail, outlining responsibilities of patrol leaders, asst. patrol leaders, Court of Honor, Troop Scribe, and troop treasurer.

Obviously, there were great developments between 1920 and 1947!

So, when we're discussing the use of the Patrol System in Girl Scouting, it is to be assumed that we are using the term Patrol System as it is used within Girl Scouting :)

Hope this helps!

Anne in Mpls



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Wow. Thank you. Carry on, Anneinmpls. GSUSA indeed. I enjoy being educated, actually, then I can speak intelligently about something, rather than merely pretending.


"ignorance is only skin deep but stupidity goes right down to the bone".

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi folks!

I did a patrol leader training a couple weeks ago: one new patrol leader and one fairly new GS who is going to serve as an asst PL and very likely to be elected in the next term. (Better for my time and energy to train 2 than to train one! Better for the girls too!)

I definitely need ways to make the training more active - currently it's very "bookish". I think next time I'll try to do it as a hike, with a cookout and stops along the way to do some of the booklarnin! Ideas?

Anne in Mpls

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Well, I was asked for updates, so here we go...


One patrol elected their Pl as I pretty much as I expected. The other is a bit unexpected, as the scout is often NOT at the troop meetings. Oh well, I guess the APL will have more work to do than usual...


Each girl has a specific role in the patrol, and as the patrols grow, I will add positions. Currently each patrol has a PL, APL, Finance Officer, and Recorder. The PL notebook (a looseleaf binder)has a roster, attendance sheet and badge record sheet-- more to add later. The Recorder has a paper binder with forms for recording plans (what we decided, volunteers and who will bring what) as well as stationary for thankyou notes and invites. The Financial Officer has a form to record dues collected, and a form to request reimbursment, as well as deposit slips for our bank accont.


I plan to add Safety Officer and Equipment Manager as the next two positions.


Last week I put the kabosh on hitting fast food restaurants for lunch inbetween meetings and outings (we meet Saturday mornings, and often participate in council events or go on outings in the afternoon). So we are experimenting with GS outdoor cooking techniques. OK, yes, they are only really good as novelty items (Buddy burners and box ovens), but we'll have fun.


We keep adding younger girls (eend of 3rd grad) and a couple have NEVER BEEN on an overnight to a friends, much less sleep outside... sigh. So I'm going to have to add some graduated activities for the younger girls, while still keeping the trips we have planned for the older (we're going camping in the mountains near Flagstaff in May -- its about a 2 hr drive from home -- not a trip for someone who's going to want Mom to come pick her up at 11:30 pm).

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