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dkurtenbach

Can the Patrol Method Be Revived?

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I've written the following or something similar a few times here:

  • The Patrol Method is about teamwork and citizenship.  Teamwork in that all patrol members share responsibility and divide up tasks so that each member contributes.  Citizenship in that the patrol is a miniature community in which the members need to learn how work with each other peacefully and productively to carry out the patrol's shared goals and responsibilities.
  • The Patrol Method and the notion of patrol spirit are largely extinct.  BSA is totally oriented to the troop as the basic operational unit of ScoutsBSA and Boy Scouting before that.  Patrols in ScoutsBSA are for administration (collecting and distributing information and resources) and a nod to tradition, but not for operations -- by which I mean planning, preparing for, and carrying out campouts, hikes, service projects, etc.  
  • A big factor contributing to the near abandonment of the patrol as the basic operational unit in ScoutsBSA is modern society, in which families have a wide variety of youth activities to choose from and participate in, on top of family and school events.  This leads to schedule conflicts and widely variable attendance by patrol members at meetings, outings, and events.  The Patrol Method is based on shared responsibility, and patrol spirit is based on shared experiences.  They can only develop when most of the patrol members are in attendance at most activities.   

You may not agree with my premise, analysis, or conclusions; but I think it is fair to say, at least, that patrols today are not as functional and autonomous as Baden-Powell envisioned.  So my question is, in today's ScoutsBSA program, given Youth Protection and adult supervision rules and the Guide to Safe Scouting, and given that families are busy and youth have other interests and activities besides Scouting, and given modern technology, is it possible to revive a form of the Patrol Method that includes:

  • A patrol in which the membership stays largely the same over a period of at least two years;
  • Frequent interaction among all of the patrol members ;
  • The patrol has substantive operational control of its activities, both for patrol-only activities and as part of larger troop activities;  and
  • Most members of the patrol have an active role in planning, preparing, and/or carrying out most patrol activities.  

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Posted (edited)

Patrol method is only a dead as we let it be.  The members of this forum represent Scouters all over the country.  The forum talks about patrol method constantly.  It is within all our ability to have amazing, patrol method based troops if we so choose.

If the patrols in a troop are not utilizing patrol method as well as you'd like, then we as individual unit leaders can change that.  If the patrols in your district are not that strong, then there is an opportunity to lead by example and to get involved at a local level strengthening local unit leader's knowledge of how to implement patrol method.

As Scoutmaster Mark Twain once said - "The reports of the death of the Patrol Method have been greatly exaggerated"

Edited by ParkMan
grammer

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2 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:
  • A big factor contributing to the near abandonment of the patrol as the basic operational unit in ScoutsBSA is modern society, in which families have a wide variety of youth activities to choose from and participate in, on top of family and school events.  This leads to schedule conflicts and widely variable attendance by patrol members at meetings, outings, and events.  The Patrol Method is based on shared responsibility, and patrol spirit is based on shared experiences.  They can only develop when most of the patrol members are in attendance at most activities.   

 

i think this is a very important point.  Perhaps we should more strongly encourage patrols to form around other things the scouts do...the "soccer patrol", the "band patrol", the "science club patrol", etc.

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I have read and heard this and similar questions / conclusions / complaints before.

I am bewildered each time. 

If Patrol method is not working in a troop, then it’s because of the troop. More often than not, Patrol method is failing because it is being impeded by adults. Left to their own devices youth will naturally gravitate towards what we call the Patrol method. 

Yes, the recent policy changes of requiring 2-21+ registered leaders makes it more difficult, but it does not make it impossible.iu

In my time as training chair, the hardest thing I had teaching SM/ASM’s wasn’t how to teach knots, compass or axe skills. The hardest thing was teaching them to stay out of the way as much as possible.

Guide, nudge and whisper when needed, but let the Scouts be Scouts and you will be 80+% of way to Patrol method. Teach them as needed and you will have a Unit with a healthy Patrol method.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, HelpfulTracks said:

If Patrol method is not working in a troop, then it’s because of the troop. More often than not, Patrol method is failing because it is being impeded by adults. Left to their own devices youth will naturally gravitate towards what we call the Patrol method. 

Yes, the recent policy changes of requiring 2-21+ registered leaders makes it more difficult, but it does not make it impossible.iu

In my time as training chair, the hardest thing I had teaching SM/ASM’s wasn’t how to teach knots, compass or axe skills. The hardest thing was teaching them to stay out of the way as much as possible.

Guide, nudge and whisper when needed, but let the Scouts be Scouts and you will be 80+% of way to Patrol method. Teach them as needed and you will have a Unit with a healthy Patrol method.

I hugely agree.  "Left to their own devices youth will naturally gravitate towards what we call the Patrol method."  Patrol method is a natural inclination of the scouts ... and people.  People tend to form groups that they associate in.  That's a patrol.   

I also agree that the best thing to promote the patrol method is to get out of the hair of the scouts.  Let scouts be scouts.  Teach and guide, but let them be them.  

Edited by fred8033

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7 hours ago, HelpfulTracks said:

More often than not, Patrol method is failing because it is being impeded by adults. Left to their own devices youth will naturally gravitate towards what we call the Patrol method. 

. . . 

Guide, nudge and whisper when needed, but let the Scouts be Scouts and you will be 80+% of way to Patrol method. Teach them as needed and you will have a Unit with a healthy Patrol method.

 

5 hours ago, fred8033 said:

I hugely agree.  "Left to their own devices youth will naturally gravitate towards what we call the Patrol method."  Patrol method is a natural inclination of the scouts ... and people.  People tend to form groups that they associate in.  That's a patrol.   

I also agree that the best thing to promote the patrol method is to get out of the hair of the scouts.  Let scouts be scouts.  Teach and guide, but let them be them.  

So, the secret to the Patrol Method is to stand back and let the magic happen?  Please, tell me more about how the magic unfolds to get to Patrol Method.  The first step, it sounds like, is to leave the youth "to their own devices" and they will form themselves into groups.  How long does it take to get to separate, identifiable groups this way?  I assume that this "natural inclination" somehow accommodates the shy kids, the loners, the new youth who don't know anyone else in the troop, and the unpopular kids.  Do these natural groups end up being pretty much the same size?  You don't have a couple of kids who just want to hang with each other and no one else?

After a separate group forms, what happens next in that group?  What is the next step toward Patrol Method?

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8 hours ago, HelpfulTracks said:

Left to their own devices youth will naturally gravitate towards what we call the Patrol method. 

 

How big would the patrols be? 15-20 scouts? Unfortunately, our meeting area is one large room. Without space to have their own area, the scouts tend to gather together. 

I am trying to think of ways to encourage the scouts to find their own groupings, but there are so many variables it's nuts. Almost as difficult as putting Silly String back into the can.

 

Mike

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46 minutes ago, RememberSchiff said:

IMO, youth naturally form groups or gangs for good or bad. In Scouting, we take those groups further by teaching and guiding scouts into responsible, cooperative, disciplined, self-lead patrols - the Patrol Method.

From @Kudu website

http://www.inquiry.net/patrol/system/3_patrol_organization.htm

 

Girls are different from boys, so I think naturally forming groups changes with the new girl membership changes. Natural human instinct is being replace by program policy, so more adult participation will be required to subtly influence some kind of positive outcome.

My humble opinion is that expectations of patrol method will change to fit cultural trends. Maybe that is what's been going on since National started New Scout Patrols, but the traditional members resisted. Since traditionalist are dwindling and their influence is fading, global scouting can step up and bring changes to the program.

Barry

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49 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

 

So, the secret to the Patrol Method is to stand back and let the magic happen?  Please, tell me more about how the magic unfolds to get to Patrol Method.  The first step, it sounds like, is to leave the youth "to their own devices" and they will form themselves into groups.  How long does it take to get to separate, identifiable groups this way?  I assume that this "natural inclination" somehow accommodates the shy kids, the loners, the new youth who don't know anyone else in the troop, and the unpopular kids.  Do these natural groups end up being pretty much the same size?  You don't have a couple of kids who just want to hang with each other and no one else?

After a separate group forms, what happens next in that group?  What is the next step toward Patrol Method?

My point is, the notion that functioning Scout patrols will form "naturally" is a myth.  It is certainly natural for people to work, play, and live in small groups -- that is the reason for organization into patrols.  But lots of those groups -- especially those with goals and responsibilities -- do not form naturally; they are assembled.  A Patrol Method patrol is a team of Scouts formed for the purpose of learning both skills and citizenship through the autonomous or semi-autonomous planning and execution of Scouting activities.  That can't be done consistently with patrols of "friends" of wildly varying sizes that  "naturally" keep shifting and "naturally" exclude some youth.  Natural clusters may be starting points for forming patrols, but someone (ideally, senior youth leadership in the troop, in consultation with the SM) has to tweak the organization in order to carry out the program.  As with any team, cooperation in a Scout patrol is absolutely necessary for success, but friendship is optional.  (That is the citizenship component of the Patrol Method.)  However, in most cases where the patrol is successful, shared effort and experiences will result in camaraderie, fellowship, and even friendship.

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Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

My point is, the notion that functioning Scout patrols will form "naturally" is a myth.  It is certainly natural for people to work, play, and live in small groups -- that is the reason for organization into patrols.  But lots of those groups -- especially those with goals and responsibilities -- do not form naturally; they are assembled.  A Patrol Method patrol is a team of Scouts formed for the purpose of learning both skills and citizenship through the autonomous or semi-autonomous planning and execution of Scouting activities.  That can't be done consistently with patrols of "friends" of wildly varying sizes that  "naturally" keep shifting and "naturally" exclude some youth.  Natural clusters may be starting points for forming patrols, but someone (ideally, senior youth leadership in the troop, in consultation with the SM) has to tweak the organization in order to carry out the program.  As with any team, cooperation in a Scout patrol is absolutely necessary for success, but friendship is optional.  (That is the citizenship component of the Patrol Method.)  However, in most cases where the patrol is successful, shared effort and experiences will result in camaraderie, fellowship, and even friendship.

I'm not sure I agree with some of this, but I will say that most administrators of the patrol method would consider camaraderie an indicator of growth and success. In the four stages (forming, storming, norming and performing) of team development, performing is the stage of a highly functional team. I would say camaraderie is a requirement of that stage. Getting to the performing stage is where most adults find the challenge. As we were talking about yesterday, Ad hoc patrols works against team building, but seem to be the natural reaction to low number troops. That is just one example, but it points out the challenge of leaders understanding patrol method and the struggles of working toward norming and performing. Doing it is challenging enough when the adults do have a good grasp of patrol method. The goal seems imaginary for those who have not experienced it in youth or adult leadership. That is why I think the influence of the culture (pop culture) will push future objectives.

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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Shouldn't the title of this post be "Can you deliver the patrol method to your Scouts?"   What is in the way of doing that?   Do you need something more? If so what do you think that is? 

 I'm really interested in what resources (BSA Handbook, troop training, etc.) you are using now, and what else you feel is needed from the leaders perspective.      

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2 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

I think the influence of the culture (pop culture) will push future objectives.

In one sense, I think we are already there, and have been there for a while, in the ScoutsBSA/former Boy Scouting program.  I think that the program has adapted to societal and cultural changes by promoting Leadership Development and Advancement -- both focused on individual achievement -- as the two key Methods of Scouting.  Indeed, Leadership Development has been promoted to be one of the Aims of Scouting, in addition to being a Method of Scouting.  See the Aims and Methods page of BSA's Troop Leader website, https://troopleader.scouting.org/scoutings-aims-and-methods/

There is also a link there to a page about the Patrol Method, which I think is actually pretty good.  The problem, as I see it, is that the explanation on that page, as well as the patrol organization discussion of the @Kudu page cited by @RememberSchiff (http://www.inquiry.net/patrol/system/3_patrol_organization.htm) is that they assume that all (or at least most) members of the patrol will not only be involved in the activity planning and preparation but will also be present at the activity.  As I have indicated, I think that is unrealistic.  Thus my original question:  How can we get around the problem of variable attendance and still have fully functioning Patrol Method patrols?

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

 

So, the secret to the Patrol Method is to stand back and let the magic happen?  Please, tell me more about how the magic unfolds to get to Patrol Method.  The first step, it sounds like, is to leave the youth "to their own devices" and they will form themselves into groups.  How long does it take to get to separate, identifiable groups this way?  I assume that this "natural inclination" somehow accommodates the shy kids, the loners, the new youth who don't know anyone else in the troop, and the unpopular kids.  Do these natural groups end up being pretty much the same size?  You don't have a couple of kids who just want to hang with each other and no one else?

After a separate group forms, what happens next in that group?  What is the next step toward Patrol Method?

You are envisioning Lord of the Flies with zero guidance.  No one said 100% stand back.  A good troop program with a good scoutmaster provides subtle guidance toward developing strong patrols.  

I always thought one of the best ways to develop a strong patrol was overcoming obstacles such as wanting to eat.  

I remember a discussion from a long time ago about a troop that was merging or starting up.  They had to recreate their patrols because of a major change.  The question was how to organize the patrols.  The best advice I heard was to count the total scouts.  Divide by 8.  Then, tell the scouts to divide themselves into that number of groups with each group having eight scouts ... plus or minus two scouts.  That's the patrols.  If they want to change patrols in the future, that's their choice.   

 

Edited by fred8033

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

I'm not sure I agree with some of this, but I will say that most administrators of the patrol method would consider camaraderie an indicator of growth and success.

I absolutely agree.  A patrol that doesn't "hang" together ain't a patrol.  A good patrol does things together.  Sticks together as much as possible.  Throw a football.  Play magic cards on a picnic table.  Go swimming.  Compete at camp beach volleyball.  ... Absolutely cook, tent and plan.

Edited by fred8033

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