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dkurtenbach

Can the Patrol Method Be Revived?

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It would be great if we could work out an adviser program. One where the experienced scouters here come and visit the troops wishing to improve or struggling with a certain aspect of scouting. The in-person view would certainly help in understanding the actual problems being experienced by the struggling Scouters. I appreciate the feedback from Barry, HelpfulTracks and Fred, but I don't think it helps address what's needed. 

Every troop meeting about 25% of the scouts are missing from the patrols. The missing scouts change every week. Trying to work with the patrols to plan meals doesn't work since sometimes there is only one scout at the meeting who is attending the upcoming campout, other patrol members will be attending the campout but aren't at the meeting.

Most scouts are already stretched thin on time due to sports etc, so they are not able (willing?) to meet with their patrols outside of a troop meeting. Further, the parents are generally very busy with their other kids or work and can't just drop everything to take Timmy to another meeting somewhere. 

Additionally, the troop I took over had been troop-centric for so long that they don't understand what patrols truly are supposed to be. In order for it to be something with purpose, something more than just social hour I have been trying to work towards more patrol-centric. Maybe I am just not understanding what it's supposed to be... hence where a visiting adviser comes in.

Mike

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Posted (edited)

Advisers ... There is a BSA concept of a unit commissioner, but then again you can't guarantee unit commissioners really know what they are talking about.  IMHO, the best advice is to talk to as many scouters as possible.

"The ideal" ...We often talk in "ideals" and much of our advice is such that "the ideal troop would ...".  Units can absolutely still provide a great, meaningful program even if they aren't the Norman Rockwell troop.  IMHO, are the scouts benefiting?   Growing?  Learning lessons?  ... My first ideal is focus on program.  Get the scouts out doing things and doing things they have never done before.  Within that structure, you can then slowly introduce Norman Rockwell images until years down the road you are closer to the ideal troop.  

Example ... Our troop has done better and worse with patrol method.  Often it's because SM changed and has the SM has a different emphasis.  The current SM emphasizes getting the scouts out doing things.  Less emphasis on patrols and PLC.  It can be frustrating, but the scouts have an absolutely great program.  Camping.  Adventures.  Canoeing.  Going someplace new every month.  Scouts setup their tents, cook and the adult are pretty relaxed.  ... So the patrol method is less than it was under our previous SM.  And, the PLC could improve. ... but those scouts have had an absolutely great scouting journey.  Is it the perfect troop?  Absolutely not.  But those scouts have great memories and have definitely grown.  I'd put their leadership and character against any troop.  .... To improve patrol method and PLC, I suspect we'll need a new SM how has a vision on how to emphasize those again.  

BSA Methods ... BSA has eight methods ... (or did ... not sure current list ...)  ... Patrol Method.  Ideals.  Outdoor Program.  Advancement.  Adult Association.  Personal Growth.  Leadership Development.  Uniform.  ... I think you can grade any troop by how well they do in each category.  And, I'm sure every troop has weak areas.  Don't get so caught up on patrol method that it overshadows the others.  I view the methods as near equals where each can help improve a scout's experience.   Some scouts over emphasize patrol method to the damage of other aspects.  I probably over emphasize the personal growth and outdoor program.  

IMHO ... Use the "ideal troop" as an image to work toward, but absolutely enjoy the troop you have.  ... Also recognize, often to create the perfect troop you need to start over with new scouts who don't know what to expect.  That sacrifices the current scouts.  IMHO, enjoy your troop and focus on getting the guys ... scouts ... out and having adventures.  ... And don't forget to laugh and have fun. 

Edited by fred8033
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@fred8033 is absolutely right:  Focus on giving your youth great experiences.  Most troops do better on some of the Eight Methods than on others, and there are a lot of troops where circumstances largely prevent the successful execution of one or more Methods. 

We haven't found what I think would be a good answer to the problem of variable attendance.  That's why I started this thread.  Some troops have tried to adapt by creating extra-large patrols so that there will be at least a few patrol members of each patrol at the activity.  Some troops find out who is planning to go on a campout and form ad hoc patrols for that activity (or just wait to see who shows up).  Some troops organize patrols of "regulars" who consistently attend, and patrols of frequent "no-shows."  Some troops just leave it to the Scouts who are going on the campout to figure out food and gear and tenting arrangements for themselves.  Some troops ignore any patrol organization and have a combination of Scouts in Positions of Responsibility and adult leaders and parents carry out the planning, preparation, and execution of activities for the whole troop.  Some troops don't have the problem because they have attendance and participation requirements for all youth members, like some sports teams do.

Until we find a good answer, work on the Methods within your troop's capabilities, be proud of your successes in those areas, and don't sweat what you can't control.

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8 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?

 

6 hours 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.

No myth, I have seen it happen too many times. The kids want to make friends, with rare exceptions. Some find it easier than others. 

The process is messy, disorganized, loud and sometimes a bit crazy. All things that run counter to our adult need for things to be organized and orderly. That is why we attempt to "assemble" friend groups. But core groups of youth with form into friends groups and eventually patrols. Leaders will emerge. Some youth with struggle to fit in, that is where adults nudge, whisper in the leaders ear, listen to the youth, ask questions and lead them toward making good decisions and helping others find where they fit in best. 

It is pretty simple, but not very easy. As adults we have to fight our urge to take control and smooth everything out. 

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How long does it take to form a patrol?

 The patrols in our World Jambo troop had two meetings one and one shakedown.

Our camp is at a cross roads, and I am seeing and hearing them form and reform daily.

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I think there's another piece to this puzzle that might help and I saw it in spades at my last high adventure trip. We were on a challenging backpacking trip because it was high, cold, and snowy. Yet it was one of the best trips I've been on and this was due to the scouts. In a nutshell, good leadership is really simple if there's good teamwork. The leader said he "didn't have to do much" and yet he did the perfect amount. The key was everyone wanted to help. There was no complaining even though a number of scouts got cold at night, feet were sore. They helped each other and talked each other up. At the end they, too, noticed how good the group was. There ranks ranged from first class to life. Age ranged from 13 to 17. Abilities are good but nothing extraordinary. They have their share of busy schedules that pull them away for a season at a time. A few are quite shy but the leader is an extrovert. What the adults did notice was that they were all leaders with respect to scout spirit. They were all in the OA but one (and he was not eligible yet). They also were all up for a challenge. This group would be the model patrol. If my troop had a few more patrols like this then I'd be on a soap box telling you to just let the scouts be.

About 7 years ago we had a group of scouts that had more than it's share of negative, or self centered, or just plain lazy kids join. It has been a huge challenge to get them motivated. They were there to make mom or dad happy. Well, they finally worked their way out of the troop and the result was this past high adventure trip.

Anyway, maybe the question isn't how to develop patrols so much as it's about dealing with a lack of teamwork. I don't know if our culture is making it harder to find scouts that live the oath and law but that seems to me at least the underlying issue. One scout in a patrol that's not wanting to help out is a challenge for the patrol. Two is a huge challenge. Three makes it impossible. A lot of scouts are new to the idea of teamwork so starting them off with a challenging group is not an easy way to develop patrols.

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18 hours ago, MattR said:

I think there's another piece to this puzzle that might help and I saw it in spades at my last high adventure trip. We were on a challenging backpacking trip . . . 

Anyway, maybe the question isn't how to develop patrols so much as it's about dealing with a lack of teamwork. 

I think @MattR has summarized the issue nicely in a clear, real-world way.  The Patrol Method in the classic sense is team-building and team performance. So if you don't have Patrol Method in your troop, the troop is missing out on the Method of Scouting designed to develop Scouts into good team players - an important life skill. Critical elements in team-building and team performance are a common goal, shared effort to accomplish that goal, and working together to overcome challenges and obstacles -- all of which generally require the participation of all of the team/patrol members.  A backpacking crew on a trek is an ideal setting for team-building and team performance.

But what if you have one or more team/patrol members who aren't interested in having or working on a common goal, or who give up in the face of challenges, or simply are not physically present at various times that team/patrol development is supposed to be occurring?  What if team/patrol members can't rely on each other to contribute to team/patrol performance when needed?  If you can't drop or add team/patrol members, and you can't change the various limitations or circumstances that are burdening individual team/patrol members, what practical steps can you take to engage in team-building with that team/patrol?

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Thank you all for the feedback. Teamwork, naturally formed patrols and gentle encouragement are the things I am taking from all of you as the base of a successful patrol-centric troop. 

 

We we are at camp this week enjoying the cool summer air... wait, it’s not actually cool this week. Except maybe in the lake. 

 

Mike

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On 7/25/2019 at 8:34 AM, 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

 

Keep in mind that the above reference is to Baden-Powell's Patrol System, not the Patrol Method.  

Two relevant differences:

1)  There are no middle managers in Baden-Powell's "System," no SPL, no ASPLs, no JASMs, no TGs, nor anyone other than Patrol Leaders with a vote in what Americans call the PLC.  In other words, ONLY the Patrol Leaders run the Troop.   This means that the most gifted outdoor Scouts rise (yes, are appointed to) the position of Patrol Leader, as opposed to the tendency in the USA to regard it as an entry-level "Position of Responsibility."  In Baden-Powell's System, there are no POR requirements.

2)  For Free Range outdoor kids the "Adventure" of Scouting is to get out on the trail, especially without adult helicopters.   This is the fundamental experience in Baden-Powell's system, to get the Patrols out on Patrol -- and likewise for William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt's "Patrol Leader Training" http://www.inquiry.net/patrol/green_bar/index.htm and his Wood Badge http://www.inquiry.net/traditional/wood_badge/index.htm

So, one secret "to just stand back and let the magic happen," is to

a) Announce a rugged backpack campout.  This will weed out kids who are in Scouts just to get Eagle on their resume, as well as their helicopter parents.

b) If necessary, let the Scouts divide themselves into two ad hoc Patrols, the more rugged of which will hike to a set destination without adults.  The other, usually less mature, might hike a shorter route to the same destination, but with adults trailing a mile or so behind.   For the first time, I would appoint the two most gifted natural leaders to the rugged Patrol, and let them work out the actual dynamics between them as they go.  Note that the more rugged Patrol will likely include a few gung-ho smaller Scouts.

c)  At the agreed destination, the two Patrols camp Baden-Powell's 300 feet apart, likewise for the adults

At the end of the weekend these members of the Troop (including the adults) will have experienced the Patrol experience that once made Scouting so popular.  

Now, how to integrate these Scouts into a BSA Troop is a different question 😕

Yours at 300 feet,

Kudu

 

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2 hours ago, Kudu said:

Keep in mind that the above reference is to Baden-Powell's Patrol System, not the Patrol Method.  

Two relevant differences:

1)  There are no middle managers in Baden-Powell's "System," no SPL, no ASPLs, no JASMs, no TGs, nor anyone other than Patrol Leaders with a vote in what Americans call the PLC.  In other words, ONLY the Patrol Leaders run the Troop.   This means that the most gifted outdoor Scouts rise (yes, are appointed to) the position of Patrol Leader, as opposed to the tendency in the USA to regard it as an entry-level "Position of Responsibility."  In Baden-Powell's System, there are no POR requirements.

2)  For Free Range outdoor kids the "Adventure" of Scouting is to get out on the trail, especially without adult helicopters.   This is the fundamental experience in Baden-Powell's system, to get the Patrols out on Patrol -- and likewise for William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt's "Patrol Leader Training" http://www.inquiry.net/patrol/green_bar/index.htm and his Wood Badge http://www.inquiry.net/traditional/wood_badge/index.htm

 So, one secret "to just stand back and let the magic happen," is to

a) Announce a rugged backpack campout.  This will weed out kids who are in Scouts just to get Eagle on their resume, as well as their helicopter parents.

b) If necessary, let the Scouts divide themselves into two ad hoc Patrols, the more rugged of which will hike to a set destination without adults.  The other, usually less mature, might hike a shorter route to the same destination, but with adults trailing a mile or so behind.   For the first time, I would appoint the two most gifted natural leaders to the rugged Patrol, and let them work out the actual dynamics between them as they go.  Note that the more rugged Patrol will likely include a few gung-ho smaller Scouts.

c)  At the agreed destination, the two Patrols camp Baden-Powell's 300 feet apart, likewise for the adults

At the end of the weekend these members of the Troop (including the adults) will have experienced the Patrol experience that once made Scouting so popular.  

Now, how to integrate these Scouts into a BSA Troop is a different question 😕

Yours at 300 feet,

Kudu

 

Free range ... I tend to agree with the "free range" ideal of scouting.  Though with today's legal system and risk adverse society, I doubt we could make it cleanly happen.  But even then, I don't think it's so bad if we can get the adult leaders sitting in the background enjoying coffee and out of the scout's hair.  It's not ideal, but it's achievable.  

No SPL or PLC ... I like the idea of having the patrol leaders at the top of the POR chain.  It's so true that today's BSA POR chain views the PL as the entry level position.  It shouldn't be.   The whole scout experience and look and feel of the troop should be dependent on the patrol leaders.  Sadly, it's really just a pass thru position these days.  

300 feet ... I've heard that distance for years now.  I just now realized that 300' is about the width of the summer camp troop camp site.  There is no way to structurally separate the patrols by 300' when at summer camp.  I know one of council's property has nice small pocket camp sites cut out of the trees.  But if you measure distance, they are probably 100' center to the center of the next camp site.  Is it even structurally possible given today's camps ?

Edited by fred8033
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5 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

 

No SPL or PLC ... I like the idea of having the patrol leaders at the top of the POR chain.  It's so true that today's BSA POR chain views the PL as the entry level position.  It shouldn't be.   The who experience and look and feel of the troop should be dependent on the patrol leaders.  Sadly, it's really just a pass thru position these days.  

The drive to Eagle caused this trend. I encourage scouts to hold off on PL as long as possible. Youth don’t really get much from the until they are at least 13. Really 14. I also encouraged them to experience the position at least twice before moving on to other ambitions.

10 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

 

300 feet ... I've heard that distance for years now.  I just now realized that 300' is about the width of the summer camp troop camp site.  There is no way to structurally separate the patrols by 300' when at summer camp.  I know one of council's property has nice small pocket camp sites cut out of the trees.  But if you measure distance, they are probably 100' center to the center of the next camp site.  Is it even structurally possible given today's camps ?

Maybe not from each other,but they can from the adults. Our usually grabbed some distance or across the road from the patrols. It makes a difference.

Barry

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2 hours ago, Kudu said:

Keep in mind that the above reference is to Baden-Powell's Patrol System, not the Patrol Method.  

Two relevant differences:

1)  There are no middle managers in Baden-Powell's "System," no SPL, no ASPLs, no JASMs, no TGs, nor anyone other than Patrol Leaders with a vote in what Americans call the PLC.  In other words, ONLY the Patrol Leaders run the Troop.   This means that the most gifted outdoor Scouts rise (yes, are appointed to) the position of Patrol Leader, as opposed to the tendency in the USA to regard it as an entry-level "Position of Responsibility."  In Baden-Powell's System, there are no POR requirements.

2)  For Free Range outdoor kids the "Adventure" of Scouting is to get out on the trail, especially without adult helicopters.   This is the fundamental experience in Baden-Powell's system, to get the Patrols out on Patrol -- and likewise for William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt's "Patrol Leader Training" http://www.inquiry.net/patrol/green_bar/index.htm and his Wood Badge http://www.inquiry.net/traditional/wood_badge/index.htm

So, one secret "to just stand back and let the magic happen," is to

a) Announce a rugged backpack campout.  This will weed out kids who are in Scouts just to get Eagle on their resume, as well as their helicopter parents.

b) If necessary, let the Scouts divide themselves into two ad hoc Patrols, the more rugged of which will hike to a set destination without adults.  The other, usually less mature, might hike a shorter route to the same destination, but with adults trailing a mile or so behind.   For the first time, I would appoint the two most gifted natural leaders to the rugged Patrol, and let them work out the actual dynamics between them as they go.  Note that the more rugged Patrol will likely include a few gung-ho smaller Scouts.

c)  At the agreed destination, the two Patrols camp Baden-Powell's 300 feet apart, likewise for the adults

At the end of the weekend these members of the Troop (including the adults) will have experienced the Patrol experience that once made Scouting so popular.  

Now, how to integrate these Scouts into a BSA Troop is a different question 😕

Yours at 300 feet,

Kudu

 

BP’s system had a Troop Leader=SPL though it was optional and only seen necessary for a Troop with many patrols.

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Looks like I buried the lead! 😎

The purpose of my post was to show how actual gung-ho outdoor kids in a BSA Troop can experience (if only for one weekend in their entire lives) a Free Range Patrol System as it was known to Baden-Powell and William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt.  Absent this "mountain top" experience,  I don't see how the material from Kudu.Net can help but sound like magical thinking (to paraphrase @dkurtenbach ).  Just idealistic words on an electronic screen.

17 hours ago, fred8033 said:

300 feet ... I've heard that distance for years now.  I just now realized that 300' is about the width of the summer camp troop camp site.  There is no way to structurally separate the patrols by 300' when at summer camp.  I know one of council's property has nice small pocket camp sites cut out of the trees.  But if you measure distance, they are probably 100' center to the center of the next camp site.  Is it even structurally possible given today's camps ?

Yes!  Baden-Powell held in disdain the American invention of summer camps, calling them "Parlour Scouting" in "canvas towns."   

Render unto Caesar, but I wonder how many Eagle Scouts ever experience a single night of Patrol camping at Baden-Powell's minimum distance between Patrols?

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2 hours ago, Kudu said:

The purpose of my post was to show how actual gung-ho outdoor kids in a BSA Troop can experience (if only for one weekend in their entire lives) a Free Range Patrol System as it was known to Baden-Powell and William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt. 

B-P and Hillcourt understood that turning a collection of youth into a working patrol required the members to spend time working, playing, and living with their fellow patrol members -- with minimal distractions, support, or interference from outside their budding team.  It's hard for a patrol to develop teamwork when the members are continually mingling with members of other patrols and adults are standing over their shoulders telling them what to do.  Physical distance from others, especially when engaged in challenging tasks, is a great way for patrol members to build reliance on each other.  The benefits of that physical separation can be supplemented and reinforced with patrol meetings at separate times and locations away from the troop meeting, and true interpatrol games (replacing physical distance with competition). 

A troop really interested in pursuing the Patrol Method could go to a schedule of one troop meeting each month that would include interpatrol competitions (not just troop-wide games or ad hoc teams); three weekly patrol gatherings/activities/skill training sessions (Scout practice) each month at times and locations convenient to the patrol members (with, of course, the required two-adult presence); and the monthly troop outing, but at a location where the patrols would be spread out.  Because each patrol would have flexibility in setting weekly patrol gathering/activity times and locations, it could help reduce members' scheduling conflicts.  And each patrol would have more time to work together on the specific advancement requirements (or even merit badges) its members need; the particular skill activities its members are interested in (even taking field trips); skills for the monthly interpatrol competition; and preparations for the monthly outing, such as checking gear and taste-testing menus.

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