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Important Ideas About The Patrol Method

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It's clear that the BSA can't describe very well what the Patrol Method is. Considering it's the most important part of a troop they need some help. So let's see if we can help them.


What are the most important ideas for a SM to know that cut to the core of the Patrol Method? All the introductions talk about 6-8 scouts, safe environment, types of patrols, etc, but they make lots of assumptions that aren't showing up in any descriptions. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling. What can you add? What would you change?

  • Independence of the patrol (300', do their own thing at meetings).
  • Respecting the PLs authority and not stepping over it (both SPL and adults).
  • The PLs responsibility to his patrol. Stosh would call this "take care of your people."
  • Teamwork: Helping your patrol & giving everyone a job
  • Boundaries for adults.
  • The chaos of learning or why it takes them so long.
  • Trust between the adults and scouts.
  • Working through people problems - this is probably the one thing that ILST talks about.
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http://www.inquiry.net/patrol/   Kudu you are missed.

When I was a scout reading Green Bar Bill's articles in Boys Life was required of all PLs, SM would say if you want to know more about having a good patrol program this was the guy to listen to. One y

I tried that for 6 months and finally said enough is enough, there will be a fire building contest. Words work on one side of the brain and competition is on the other side, and in boys the two sides

  • Set the Example: In appearance, manner and deed.

Communicate: Meet, call and talk to your patrol.

Think Ahead: Learn to think/communicate weeks ahead, not days or hours ahead.

Be Organized: Know what events are coming up, teach your patrol their role.

Delegate: Let the others in the patrol do their job, if they don't know help them or get them trained.

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Your first priority is to your patrol.  Once you get more experience and can function adequately, you can then think about helping out on the troop level.


As a member of the patrol you have just as much responsibility to take care of every else as the PL does.

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Per Bill and per BSA today:


The patrol is supposed to be a largely self-selected team led by the leader they elect.   As with the typical team, all the members have jobs - positions on the team.


Scouts are supposed to primarily experience Scouting in the patrol context, not as a troop.. That requires patrol camping, hiking, and meetings, all planned democratically by the patrol members under the leadership of the Patrol Leader.   NOTE: “Patrols will sometimes join with other patrols to learn skills and complete advancement requirements [and] [a]t other times they will compete against those same patrols in Scout skills and athletic competitions.† BSA 2015.[emphasis added]


The troop is run, inclusive of annual and shorter-term planning,  by a committee of Patrol Leaders, the PLC, chaired by the Senior Patrol Leader who is elected by the Scouts of the Troop.  That committee alone plans the troop program.  The SPL leads only the troop activities and only then while respecting the leadership of the Patrol leaders over their patrols.  The PLC interacts with the Troop Commitee through the Senior Patrol leader, who presents the proposed annual program to the Troop Committee to seek its support.  The Senior Patrol Leader fills the other troop leadership positions in consultation with the Scoutmaster.


Adults have responsibility for safety and are otherwise resources, coaches, counselors, and mentors for the leaders of the patrols and troop, and they act as examples of Scouting Values.  After Safety, the Scoutmaster's first responsibility is helping PL's and the SPL be good leaders.



There are a range of techniques to make all of these things happen properly and well.  (See above.)


You have to know the destination to plan a successful route.


BSA and Scouting are so very far from the words.

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Good points all....


But are we striving to scientifically describe something that has already been successful, pre-1972 ISP and White Stag-style WB?


When the BSA  moved away from traditional patrols, it threw out the proverbial baby, bathwater, and the tub as well.   So I found an old classic, sitting quietly on the shelf, minding its own business...from the golden era of scouting and true patrol method...the Handbook for Boys, fifth edition, copyright 1948.


Your thoughts please..... 


Page 5:  "As a scout you will belong to a Patrol, which is the Scout name for a small gang of your best friends in the Troop you join.  Every week, probably, you will have a Patrol and Troop meeting.   Here there will be time for games and contest, and songs and stunts--lots of fun.   You will plan and get ready for hikes and camping trips--learning how to pitch a tent, pack your knapsack, how to use a compass and read a map; how to tie useful knots and bandage a wound.   There's always plenty to do."


Pages 56-57 (in part):  "Your Patrol is your gang, with whom you scout, hike and camp.  Each Patrol has its own name, flag call and badge...Your Patrol flag displays the emblem of your Patrol.  How proud you feel to belong when you see it fluttering in the breeze!  You wear your Patrol badge on your right sleeve for the same reason--to tell the world where you belong, who your buddies are, and what you stand for.  Probably you stencil it on your pack, your tent and other equipment.   The best Patrol in the Troop--you are part of it!...The strength of your Patrol is the strength of each Scout.  Do your share to make it strong."


Pages 57-58 lists leaders in the patrol:

"Your Patrol Leader is a First Class Scout, or working towards it rapidly, because part of his job is to help train others.   He leads the Patrol at Patrol and Troop meetings, on hiking and camping trips."


The other duties mentioned:  APL, scribe, treasurer, quartermaster; optional duties:  grubmaster, song/cheer leader, hikemaster.


And last but not least, page 60:  "Much of your advancement work for Second and First Class Rank will be done in your Patrol, at Patrol meetings, and on Patrol hikes and camps.  Your Patrol Leader, with the approval of your Scoutmaster, can pass you on any of your requirements for these two ranks, if he has already completed the requirements himself.  This advancement opportunity makes your Patrol work of real importance to you as you go forward in your Scouting progress."



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Great words.  How about these?


The patrol method isn’t one way to run a troop. It’s the only way.â€


"nless the patrol method is in operation, you don’t really have a

Boy Scout troop.â€


â€[T]hey [the patrol] self-select and they are friends….â€


"Scouts should be encouraged to invite their friends to join the troop and become a member of their patrol."


“You set up a structure—six to eight Scouts—and let them figure it out...  Boys are going to want to stick together if you can use their friendships to put together a team.â€


“Patrol spirit is the glue that holds the patrol together and keeps it going. Building patrol spirit takes time, because it is shaped by a patrol's experiences—good and bad.â€


“A patrol is that small group of boys and friends under their own leadership who plan and carry out . . . patrol meetings and activities.â€


“The patrol members camp together, cook together, play together, and learn together."


“[The patrol members] interact in a small group outside the larger troop context, working together as a team and sharing the responsibility of making their patrol a success.â€


“A patrol takes pride in its identity, and the members strive to make their patrol the best it can be.â€


“It’s the place where boys learn skills together, take on leadership responsibilities, perhaps for the first time . . . . “


“Patrols are where Scouts learn citizenship at the most basic level. . . .  “


“Patrols elect their own leaders, and through these patrol leaders, Scouts have a voice in deciding what activities the troop will put on its calendar.â€


“The boys themselves develop . . . program, then take responsibility for figuring out how they will achieve their goals.â€


“Empowering boys to be leaders is the core of Scouting.  Scouts learn by doing, and what they do is lead their patrols and their troop.â€


“The Scoutmaster and other adults with the Troop act as non-voting advisors and resources for the Scout leaders in their program planning.â€


“Our goal is not to get things done, but to create a safe and healthy environment with the training and resources that the Scouts need, and then let them do it.â€


“The role of the adults is not the destination, but  the journey. 

That is, our responsibility as adults is to promote the 'process' of Scouting.â€


“Except as to matters of safety, neither adults nor Junior Assistant Scoutmasters directly supervise Scout work.  Instead, they work THROUGH the leaders by teaching, advising, counseling, educating, and example.â€


“We just have to remember that our business as adults is not the same as the business of the boys. It is up to them to get things done.


It is up to us to make sure they have what they need, but (within the bounds of health and safety) not what they do with it.â€


“Your Scoutmaster and other adult leaders will help Scouts become good leaders, then will step back and allow the troop’s youth leaders to take charge of planning and carrying out activities.â€


“It can be a very messy business, and painful to watch.   Meetings where the boy leaders are in charge can be very chaotic. And it can be very tempting for adults to jump in and sort things out, because that is what adults do.  But we have to remember that that is the process of Scouting. That is how they learn—even from disorganization and failure.â€


“Adults [sHOULD] understand that their role is to create a safe place where boys can learn and grow and explore and play and take on responsibilities—and fail, and get up and try again.â€



Boy Scouts of America, 2015

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Patrol (v) = to hike and camp independently to get to know the lay of the land on behalf of your unit.

Patrol (n) = a small band of scouts assembled (more or less permanently) for the express purpose of patrolling.

Patrol Leader (n) = a scout whose goal is to qualify to take his patrol hiking and camping.

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Maybe a new park with more swings and slides might be a new adventure for someone under the age of 5, but by the time the boys reach the teen years, one has to have dumped  the babysitter to still call it an adventure.

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Maybe a new park with more swings and slides might be a new adventure for someone under the age of 5, but by the time the boys reach the teen years, one has to have dumped  the babysitter to still call it an adventure.

[Resisiting joke about teen boys and babysitter interest] ;)

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I think what others have said about each member of the Patrol having a job is very important. 


Green Bar Bill Says:

“You will never get anywhere with a one-man system. The farthest it can bring your Patrol is into the ditch and one might assume that that is exactly the place of all the places where you don’t want to see it.


If you want it to succeed you will have to build up a system of organization in which every one of the boys is a part with special duties and special work to perform for the good of the Patrol.


As you work along you will soon find that the leading of a Patrol is much more than a one-man job, and you will soon find that you need the help of every one of your boys to take care of the special details.


You might not need them all at the very start, and in fact it will be better for you to wait with the assigning of jobs to the different boys, until you have worked together with them for some time, during which you will have acquired some knowledge as to their abilities.â€


Handbook for Patrol Leaders, 1929

Edited by LeCastor
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The need is to get beyond fair words -- policy -- to actual action -- practice.


What can be done to encourage and recognize use of the Patrol Method?  We can tell we have a long way to go when Scouting [magazine] ignores BSA policy and runs an article arguing that the Patrol Method is optional, at least until youth leadership can produce a well-oiled machine by adult standards.  


And I don't mean solely "done" by BSA.  What can be done locally?  Ribbon: "Patrol Method"?    Ribbon" "Boy Scout Troop"?  

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