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Lets talk Patrol Method (this is not a substitute for attending Scoutmaster Leader Specific Training)


This is how I understand the Patrol Method in Scouting.


The patrol method is one of the basic tenets of scouting. It incorporates how scouting is; organized, lead, planned, taught, and more.


It is dependent on the adult leadership focusing on training junior leaders and not on running the troop members in general.


The overview is like this, there are three types of patrols; (groups of usually no more than 8 scouts)


New Scout Patrols, each under the leadership of a Troop Guide and a Patrol Leader that serves for thirty days.


Regular Patrols, that consist of scouts First Class and higher under the leadership of an elected Patrol Leader and a selected Asst. PL


Venture Patrols, Scouts 13-years of age and First Class or higher under the leadership of an elected Patrol Leader and a selected Asst. PL


(ASPLs are selected by the PL)


The PLs are each responsible for the activity, behavior and success of their independent, individual patrols.


When two or more patrols gather they become a troop under the leadership of an elected Senior Patrol Leader and his selected assistant. They are responsible for coordinating the efforts of the PLs. They are not the boss of every patrol member. The PL helps the patrol succeed, the SPL helps the PLs succeed.


Adult Leader responsibilities (outside of troop committee)


Scoutmaster-Train Junior Leaders, Coordinate PLC agenda with SPL, Know the needs and characteristics of every boy in the troop.


Asst. Scoutmaster- Manage assignments from the SM and fill in for the SM if needed.


Asst. Scoutmaster New Scout Patrol, Work with the Troop Guide to help scouts achieve First Clas near the end of their First year of Boy Scouting.


Asst Scoutmaster Venture Patrol- assist Venture PL when needed to coordinate and attend high adventure activities.


Each patrol establishes its own identity through Patrol identification, Flags, call, cheer, unique optional uniform pieces, interests, etc.


Each patrol member has a patrol office and their participation is needed for the maximum operational level of the patrol.


Patrols are encouraged to develop to the point whare adult participation and oversight is not required.


Patrols are never combined. It takes no more work to hike or camp with two people as it does with 8. So if only two Panther patrol are camping then they camp as the Panther Patrol with just their two members. If they are competing in a relay against a patrol of 8 then they can each run the 4 times, but you keep them as the panther patrol. Combining patrols puts bioys under the leadership of someone they had no vote in choosing. Not a good situation.


When any new member joins below tyhe rank of First Class they become a member of a new scout patrol. If you have enough members to form more than one new scout patrol then the scout can choose which NSP he wants to join.


Upon earning First Class the scouts can choose to either remain in their current groupiong and become a regular patrol OR they can choose to join an existing regular patrol providing there is room. If three scouts wanted to stay together and there was no room in any one existing regular patrol then they can form a new patrol.


All activities operate through the patrol. Patrols plan their own menus, do their own cooking, have their own camp area, have specific troop meeting responsibilities etc.


There is more but this should be enough to get things started.


Do you see how this works? can you see the advantages of this method? Can you see areas where you use the Patrol Method and areas where you could improve?


Let's talk.




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I do see how this works. I finished reading the "Patrol Leaders Handbook" this is the only way to operate, our difficulty is on our outings we only get enough boys to form one patrol instead of 4 distinct patrols that camp seperatly. However we did get 4 crossovers and 1 w/out any scouting experience to form a new patrol and they are doing a great job. We currently are working on having older scouts teach our new boys the patrol method and encourage separate patrol outings, we recently had 3 boys attend a baseball game..it's a start of separate patrol identity.

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I have a small troop, 12 boys registered, 7 - 10 that attend regularly. The regulars are Tenderfoot to First Class. I have one older boy about to turn 18 (in August) who is my SPL. I recently inherited this troop and the previous SM is a great guy and super Scouter (had the troop for 15 years). However, because of the low numbers, he did not have the boys in any formally structured patrol (no name, no flag, no yell, etc.). The SPL just ran things at our regular meetings. Believing in the Patrol method as you have outlined, I wanted to bring some form of a Patrol to the Unit. At one meeting, I had the boys elect a Patrol leader and he then chose his assistant. When the SPL does not attend a Unit meeting or function, the PL and his APL, run things. The boys are having a good time and I do not want to spoil it by changing things; however I have been toying with the idea of asking the boys if they want to split this patrol into two patrols. This obviously would mean going from a large patrol (which is functioning fine) to two smaller patrols (big unknown). The boys are all friends of each other and thus how would the boys decide who was in which patrol? I anticipate the solution is to let the boys decide (great idea, no problem); my concern is what are some of the ramifications of doing this or not doing this? Thanks for your thoughts.




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Split them up. There is the old concept of divide and conquer that I've seen all my life in Baptist churches. Sunday School classes grow and get large and then just kind of stagnate. When they split this one large class into two smaller classes, they always begin to grow again and eventually get large enough again to need to be divided again. Plus, with more classes, people have more options to find a group they fit in with and a teacher they like.


Having two patrols can also provide a little natural competition which will help the patrols and the individual boys strive to be even better than they previously were.


My son is in a Webelos 1 den currently. We have 11 boys in the den. The Bears have 5 boys. The Bears leader is stepping down at the end of this scout year and there is no replacement. The decision has been made (and I don't know the reasoning behind it) to combine these two groups next year into one big den of 16 boys (Webelos 1 and 2's mixed). My feeling all year long was that the 11 boys needed to be split up into two dens. Now we are combining even more boys into the mix. As you can imagine, den meetings are total chaos!


I think if we had split the den, we could have recruited more boys into each of them and continued to divide as needed.


The one problem with dividing groups like this is that someone always gets in a huff for a little while because they liked things the way they used to be!!! It usually passes.

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If the NSP remains intact after the boys make 1st Class, doesnt that in itself defeat the patrol method? We would now have a patrol of all younger boys. There would be no wise old sage in the patrol to pass down his vast experience, and no immediate role model for the boys to follow. Conversely, the older boys would not have any younger boys immeditely available to lead.


I certainly see the merits of keeping this group of boys together. But Im not convinced that it provides them the same opportunities that would be available to them if they were to be reassigned into patrols made up of older (more experienced) boys.


Convince me.

(This message has been edited by fotoscout)

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Again it is the scout's choice to remain together or join existing regular patrols. The deal is the boys choose the group they hang with just like in real life. Remember this is more of a gang than a corporate department. if you want boys to stay in the program and to be active in the program they need to enjoy the patrol they are in. You cannot pick other peoples friends for them.


Don't think that older boys need to lead younger ones. They will get the same leadership experience and learning from leading scouts their own age or older as they do from leading younger ones. The troop Guide is their not so he can get to lead younger scouts, but so that younger scouts can begin to be trained in the program and have an immediate role model.


After they are first class and are comfortable outdoors and have a basic understanding of troop operaqtion they will have lots of opportunities to interact with older scouts.


Bob White

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  • 2 months later...

I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner! I am taking over as SM for a Troop where the patrol method was loosely adhered to.


There are eight boys approaching age 16-18, most getting their Eagle. I don't think they will be participating enough. . . the Rangers.


There are four active 8th graders well on the way to Star/Life . . . the Lightning. And four active 7th graders at 1st Class. . . the Falcons.


I graduated to Boy Scouts with 22 webelos last February and we formed two NS patrols. . . . the Scorpions and Dragons and they are entering 6th grade.


We completed a fantastic summer camp with 14 of new scouts, and ready for 2nd Class in a few months.


There was a large drop out of two years worth of scouts between the Eagle-ready scouts and the NS patrols.


I expect at least 16 of the NS to remain active. My dilemma, should I leave the friends and patrols alone or shuffle the cards to group 6th, 7th and 8th together? I've really been struggling with this.


My instincts tell me parents and scouts would be happier with their current group of mates. We can gradually implement a successfule patrol and JLT program as we grow. Especially some of the parents . . . they are used to having the "retired" SM and other adults do all the meetings. I want to implement the Patrol Method but I don't want to throw everything on its head.


Maybe I could just downsize the Dragons and Scorpions into three patrols.


Any advice?


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1st, Welcome!


2nd, great question!


I'd suggest letting the boys in the Scorpion and Dragon Patrols decide. Guide them to three options: Graduate into one of the existing Patrols (other than Ranger - They are your Venture Patrol) once they make 1st Class, allow them to stay as is (my bet for what they will decide), or to reorganize into three Patrols.


11 guys in a Patrol is more than the prefeered number, mostly because each Scout is likely to not have a significant enough role in the running of the Patrol to feel important. This is just one more reason why a good Troop Guide and good ASM are vital for each Patrol. It can work with large numbers, but it takes real guidance by the Troop Guide to make sure the Patrol Leader shares responsiblity for making the Patrol go. Especially if you are right about the attrition you expect, it may work out well for you. But let the guys decide. They'll own the decision, and as long as the guidance is in place, they'll do fine.


One suggestion I might offer is not to be so quick assuming that you'll be down to 16 boys. We've done that before, based on how boys react to camp, etc., and have been way off base. Plan for what you have, adjust if it's necesary later. You may find that if your guys see things like this (then deciding how they will run themselves), you might not lose any!


Thank you for taking on such an important position. It sounds like you understand that it is important not because YOU will be important, but rather because you realize that the Scouts are the focus of the program. Please keep us posted on how things evolve.




P.S. Coincidence is a funny animal - When my oldest joined, 22 guys formed two New Scout Patrols: The Scorpions and the Dragons.



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You'll find a difference of opinion about the composition of patrols out here.

No argument - the guys will almost always prefer to be grouped together with a bunch of buds the same age. Why not? That's the way they learned in Cub Scouts and they are comfortable with it.


Be aware - there are pros & cons. Worst is that leadership of peers is probably the most challenging of situations and generally requires more control from outside the patrol.


I won't go into more here, but there are a lot of other threads on this subject. One titled "Single age vs mixed age patrols" can be found under "Open discussion - Program." (http://www.scouter.com/forums/viewThread.asp?threadID=32525#id_32532).


Good luck!

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That's probably the best way to do it with a troop your size.


For larger troops, some prefer to use an optional method of grouping all the new guys into patrols together. This allows them to focus on the basic skills and advancement through First Class with the help of an older boy (called Troop Guide) and usually a dedicated Asst Scoutmaster. After a certain period of time (often 1 year) or upon completing First Class, they are allowed to move up into regular patrols with a mix of ages. There are Pros & Cons to this, too. Some larger troops still do it your way, but the method recommended by BSA is to keep the new guys together at first, if the numbers allow this to work.



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I did not want to start a new thread on this question, thinking it is close enough to the discussion of the Patrol Method to be handled here. Our elections for PLs and SPL are coming up soon. The existing patrols were more or less formed by the boys choosing who they wanted to be in with, then, the SM has done some adding to the patrols of new scouts. They are roughly balanced in terms of boys per patrol.


We don't have a new scout patrol because except for one Scout, all the boys have been in over one year.


Here are the questions: 1) The existing patrols should elect a new PL and APL from their ranks, right? and,


2) The new SPL will be elected also. Then, should he appoint an ASPL or should the ASPL be elected also? We think the latter is better, because then the ASPL can succeed to the job of SPL.


Comments anyone?

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Per the books, SPL should appoint his staff. He'll be working closely with ASPL (and others) and they need to be guys he's comfortable with and has confidence in. Recommend this be done with SM consultation.


Same thing in the Patrol -- the PL selects his APL, etc.

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Have to admit to being in two minds about the New Scout Patrol.

It can and does work.

However it does need a lot of work to get running well.

Back in England, the Cub Scouts moved into the troop on their 11th birthday. There was in my time a Link Badge, that they could earn. One of the requirements was attending troop and patrol meetings. As the Pack, Troop and Venture Unit were all part of one Scout Group, it was the norm that a boy (Then) would remain in the same Scout Group all the time that he was in Scouting.

So we never had the big influx of new Scouts. Most packs did try to get at least 2 or 3 Cubs to cross over at the same time.

For the most part the Scouts knew the Cub Scouts, and the Patrol Leaders Council would place these little guys in the patrol that needed them.

The need would be because the Scouts would be joining the Venture unit when they were 16.

Once in a patrol, more often then not that would be "His Patrol" all the time that he was in the troop.

I'm not sure why but there seemed to be a lot more Patrol Camping. That is where the patrol went away as a patrol not as part of the troop. Then there is over here. In fact I think that we do not install near enough Patrol Pride.

I do agree with Bob White, that breaking up a Patrol for any reason is normally wrong. The only time we had to do it was when we were starting a new patrol.

Still that was there and here is here.

As long as we have a group of boys coming into the troop all at the same time and being that most of them may be pals to start with, the New Scout Patrol is a good idea and does work.


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