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Can the Patrol Method Be Revived?

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1 hour ago, dkurtenbach said:

e.  @MattRmentioned the adult desire for "efficiency" -- something Baden-Powell encountered and warned against almost from the beginning of the Scouting Movement.

I had some committe members (married couple) ask me (SM) to provide a list of each scout skill we would learn at each weekly meeting and cross reference this to a T-1 requirements matrix - for efficiency sake so their son could make 1st class first year, the dad signed up for 10 Eagle Merit badges and started to counsel his own son.

But I digress, there is still value in doing the Patrol Method (especially cooking). Troops need to keep trying to make it work and give scouts the opportunity to learn in small groups by doing, failing and succeeding. Giving them checklists outside of the usual gear, patrol box, duty roster takes the fun out of scouting.

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I was a soccer coach at the same time as a Scoutmaster, so our troop was open minded with sports, and other outside activities like band and school plays. I would say that on average, we had 60 percen

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

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 S

@dkurtenbach I am currently experiencing the same struggles you are with the Patrol Method. If a patrol did plan an outing, half of the patrol members could not attend because of other commitments. Sometimes parents would complain that their scouts are doing too much and get the outing canceled. I could have written your initial post myself.

When I was given the challenge of being scoutmaster of my troop one year ago (and only being associated with the troop for 6 months prior), I inherited a troop that was troop led. They had patrols, but did nothing as patrols. Wood Badge inspired me to revive the Patrol Method in my troop...in fact it was one of my tickets. So here is what I have learned so far...

1) I let the scouts group themselves into patrols. I think the second iteration of this will work the best, where after the SPL election, I asked the troop how patrol rosters should be determined? In some troops, they mixed the ages/ranks, whereas others group more by ages. It is your troop, how do you want divide into patrols? I discussion ensued and they proceed to divide themselves by age. They even assigned a troop guide to the patrol of scouts that have not been in the troop for a year yet. 

2) Get them into a patrol meeting and get them to plan a patrol only outing for next month. The outing can be anything as long as it is allowed by BSA policy. Eventually, I want my SPL to be the one asking the PLs "What is your patrol doing next month?" and put pressure on them if they are doing nothing. 

3) Attendance seems good for week-long scout camps, so scouting can take priority over sports for most of your troop. So when patrols do something, the outing has to be an awesome experience or challenging in some way. Letting the patrols decide where and what they are going to do seems to improve attendance.

However, my road to patrol method utopia is full of potholes and a washed out bridge...

1) You are doubling and tripling the workload on adults needed to support outings. If two deep adult leadership cannot be met, then the outing has to be cancelled. I found that this had discouraged the patrol method in my troop since I have been SM.

2) Some scouts are only there to get their eagle badge and are usually there at the insistence of their parents. They'll attend an outing if it has some advancement benefit. I had a parent insist that their patrol leader son cook for the "adult patrol" at a camporee, so he can finish his Eagle Required Cooking Merit Badge. Others in the patrol had to pick up the pieces. These parents are also the last ones that will help support patrol activities and will actually work against them.

3) Requirements of two deep adult leadership at outings require good long term planning on the part of scouts in my troop. Unfortunately, we do not have any adults that love to drop everything and camp with scouts for a weekend. So last year, because of not enough long term planning for patrol outings, many outings are cancelled because of the lack of scouts and/or needed adults. 

I do have hope for the patrol method in my troop, because I think the scouts can solve these problems if given the task and some direction through questions. It will take time, however, and it will be work. I am not even close yet.


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@Owls_are_cool, thanks for sharing your efforts and struggles in developing the patrol method in your troop.  Of the issues you mention -- variable attendance by Scouts, adult supervision requirements, advancement focused Scouts and parents, and the need for long-term planning -- I think variable attendance may be the most difficult, because it disrupts even the most basic patrol activity.  If you have four out of seven patrol members at planning meeting and none of them are going on the upcoming campout, how do they plan the campout menu, getting the groceries, assembling gear, and arranging transportation?  If you have a twenty-Scout troop with three patrols but only eight Scouts are going on the campout, is there any real benefit in having three widely separated patrol sites?  If patrols have the flexibility to schedule things so that the most patrol members can attend, and as you say, awesome and challenging experiences that they want, you can really help with attendance.  

You may actually be able to use Advancement and Leadership Development in support of Patrols:  If one of the jobs of a Patrols Leader is to supervise Scout through First Class advancement of patrol members, including arranging for skill instruction and skill testing, and signing off rank requirements, then not only are you promoting advancement and giving your Patrol Leader real responsibility, you have a really good reason for (1) holding patrol meetings and patrol activities (that is where advancement happens), (2) scheduling those meetings and activities at times that the Scouts in the patrol can attend, and (3) patrol adults/parents making sure that there is sufficient adult presence and that the meetings and activities are not cancelled.

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@Owls_are_cool, welcome. You're example of adults unable to "drop everything to camp" lies at the crux of how our litigious society has gutted any possibility of patrolling happening in BSA. What does patrolling look like? Well, as one Portugese girl explained it to me: "We're all trained in hiking and camping, so I get with my patrol and we make a plan, let or folks know it, and go hike and camp there."

So also, did a few of the British, Danes, Swedes, etc ....

Now their groups are within four years of age. So, that controls the YPT a bit more tightly. But patrols are often mixed sex. And how they segregate in tents seems to depend on the country (and I suspect local culture). The notion of having to acquire two adults of opposite sex before the patrol could even meet is patently absurd to all of them. The can't imagine a patrol would have a chance in the BSA. At the point where they realize this, I ask them, "Please pray for the US, we really need it."

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