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Venture Patrols - keeping 'em active & integrated

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In another thread on how Webelos choose troops, Dan asks: "Are older scouts involved in the meeting or have they been out of the meeting the entire night working on Venture Patrol things, this should be a warning, that they are not keeping the older scouts involved."


Good question! How DO you keep the older guys (14+) both interested and integrated? We're facing this issue in our troop and would appreciate hearing what works!

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Our troop has only 5 older boys (14+), with the remaining 9 all 11-12yrs old. The age difference may not seem like much, but there really is a significant difference in maturity level (ok, I know that's stretching the meaning of the word a little :-) ). We also may have up to 10 Webelos crossing over this spring, making us a very young troop.


I'm concerned because we lost several older scouts last year for various reasons, and I need to keep my remaining older scouts active and interested, so I don't lose any more leaders.


We are considering doing a variation of a 'Venture' patrol, where we try to involve the older scouts in more high adventure activities than perhaps the younger scouts aren't quite qualified to do yet, things like longer backpacking trips on rougher terrain, cross-country skiing, etc.


So our thinking is that we would have a 'high adventure' type group for the older scouts, but at the same time, have the older scouts remain as leaders for the younger boys. This way, the older scouts get their more exciting activities, but they still remain involved and active with ALL the scouts in the troop.


We haven't yet implemented this yet, but are leaning strongly towards doing so soon.






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Also, when you have these exciting activities for the older boys, make sure the younger boys see what they are up to. Even combine the activities when you can. That way, the younger guys have something to look forward to, and it keeps their adrenaline going. Some of the young ones (and their parents) may push for them to do all the same things. But stand your ground, and help differentiate the ages in order to make scouting a lifelong experience.

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A very similiar variation to this "venture" patrol is being attempted in my son's old troop. My concern with this is the real motivation behind it. Our troop as well, was very young and trying to keep a few older boys interested. The more questions I asked of the boys and the ASMs, the less support I had for the idea. In our group, There were really only a very few things that the "older" boys wanted to do that the younger boys SHOULD be excluded from. It was my perception, that is was more about wanting and elite distinction between them and the "younger" scouts. I can recall my son and his two 12yr old friends returning from a troop hike very upset. I had to pry out of them what the problem was. The troop had been separated by the SPL into Older / Younger boys and sent hinking into separate directions. The Older boys taking the (presumably) High Adventure path. After the older boys returned, bragging about what a great time they had, dissention was brewing.


My second objection has to to with program capacity. Especially with a young/small troop. IMHO, there are a finite number of days/nights that each scout/scouter are willing/able to commit to a program. With the venturing / High adventure concept, you are actually proposing a separate program. I propose that it is virtually impossible to do this without drawing resources away from the traditional troop program. As CC I camped with our troop several times to meet the minimum adult requirements. Yet, some of our ASMs wanted to commit to "Venturing / High Adventure" activities that the majority of our troop would not be "qualified" for. Your Boy leaders will likely fall into this same trap.


I am not saying that it can't work, just a few watch outs.


BTW our new troop (we moved) has 50+ active scouts 1/3 >14 with no Venture Patrol or crew.



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Venture Patrols are appropriate in many but not all cases involving older Scouts.


If the older Scouts have an interest in doing more high adventure, more sports, and are willing to take the initiative to plan extra patrol level activities, then they are good prospects for a Venture Patrol.


If they simply want to get away from the younger Scouts, want to shirk leadership roles, or want to have an all high adventure type program at the troop level, then they are not candidates for a Venture Patrol (at least not until their mindset is changed). In fact, in cases like that, I would suggest it could be time for them to move on to a Varsity Scout Team or Venturing Crew. That would provide them the separate, focused program they are looking for without draining your troop, since those are separate, independent units with their own leaders.


The optimal Venture Patrol should be older boys, interested in remaining active in the Troop, willing to at the least lead by example, willing to work with the younger Scouts at least part of the time, but yet desiring to take on some more challenging and exciting activities from time to time. They should be willing to provide a greater portion of the leadership and initiative for these activities than is expected of younger Scouts.


Also, keep in mind, that for some, the Scouting journey is not a life long thing. For some, it comes to an end while still a youth. Even for those that do continue on the Scouting trail, it sometimes includes changing direction and moving out of the Troop and into another unit such as a Crew or Ship. As unit leaders we should want what is best for the unit, but we should always make certain that the best interest of the Scouts is kept in focus. Sometimes, that may mean sending someone on down the road with our best wishes for the future. (It is sort of the like the Army idea of "Mission First, People Always".)


In any case, if you do use a Venturing Patrol, it should be understood that they are just another patrol in the Troop. They are not an independent group (though they may have some separate activities), they are part of the troop. They should be expected to provide leadership, attend meetings, be helpful to younger Scouts, participate in fundraisers, wear the uniform, and be active participants in just the same way everyone else in the troop is. Perhaps even a higher standard should be expected since these are the older, more experienced, more mature Scouts.





BSA suggests that the optimal troop meeting will contain at least three different programs (or subdivisions of the same program) one for new Scouts, one for experienced Scouts, and one for older Venture Scouts. The idea is this provides for having both an integrated program and common activity, and yet being able to cater to the different needs of each group. I like this idea, though I have yet to ever see it work as written. (Mostly because I have never been involved in a troop that had all three patrol types at the same time.)


The meeting should take place as a troop, but their should be time set aside for each patrol to get together on their own for patrol business, and there should also be time for skills instruction splitting the troop into approximately 3 groups based on skill level. In this regard the Venture Patrol should be spending part of the meeting off on its own. In a troop with a single Venture Patrol, it will probably spend both the patrol meeting and skill instruction time on its own. However, it should be with the rest of the troop for the other parts of the meeting. (Individual older Scouts from the Venturing Patrol could also be involved with the new scout and experienced scout portions of the meeting as instructors, or helping lead the troop by carrying out various troop positions of responsibility.)


Final, closing thought.


The patrol is the natural, fundamental unit of Scouting. Without the patrol, there is no Troop, therefore it is the fundamental, foundation unit upon which everything else, from troop to council is built. It is a natural unit, because it is an organized version of the groups boys will form on their own. It probably contains more structure than a normal group, but it is essentially an outgrowth of what comes naturally for boys. While mixing with those of other ages is natural to some extent, there are also divisions that exist. You don't often see high school seniors choosing to hang out with 6th graders on their own. The BSA realizes this and seeks to provide an outlet for this through the use of three patrol types. (I would even suggest that the natural pattern of socialization changed and that in turn drove the change from mixed age patrols to distinct types of patrols.)

(This message has been edited by Proud Eagle)

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Trevor - While there are some good ideas here, you might do some searching through the archives on this one, particularly for thoughts on this from EagleDad. FWIW in our Troop we're using a Venture Patrol on a event by event basis and tie it in with the Crew whenever we can. Wouldn't call it a smashing success but its working kinda...

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  • 4 weeks later...

I read thru this topic, and it all seems very familiar. We had the older scouts, and formed a Venture Patrol... but that was not enough stimulation, so a Crew was formed... and yes they plan rafting trips, ski trips, canoe trips, nights at sports teams, comedy clubs, etc - and how many actually attend from a group of about 18 - about 3 - the 3 "families" that cannabalized the Troop of all the older scouts to form the Patrol, and then the Crew and now have their little social club.


So - I'm really down on Crews that skim the older scouts and leave the Troop with nothing above 14yr olds.


As far as separate programs at meetings, yeah it looks good on paper - but what do they actually do at a meeting. If they "wanted" to be leaders, or part of the Scouting program, then they would participate as a Troop member. Sure we have the usual breakout for skills, but what does a 16yr old Life scout need in skills... so it becomes time to just goof around, get loud, and eventually get thrown out of the meeting.


There is very little trickle down leadership, and more and more of "what's in it for me"...


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As for high adventure. Lets change that to outside adventure. We found several scouts had no desire for high adventure but wanted to do something outside of the normal troop program.


Great post Barry. I agree. While High Adventure appeals to a great number of scouts, there are other "adventures" that can be just as fun for them.


It's interesting you used the roller coaster example. I have an energetic young PL that kept suggesting amusement parks at our annual planning session. I could tell the SPL and the other PLC members weren't that interested in doing it. And, our summer was already pretty full with a long weekend campout, Summer Camp and a whitewater trip. I finally stepped in and suggested he take that as a good patrol activity. He could get a couple of the parents to drive them to our local Six Flags. He would have to coordinate the schedule, the transportation, the costs, etc. It would be a great experience. I don't know if he'll follow through. We'll have to wait and see.

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We decided to form a VP with some trepidation; we could still smell the smoke from a failed attempt at a Venture Crew that resulted in only the loss of a good leader, 3 older scouts, and lots of bad and very recent memories. Nonetheless, our older Scouts needed and wanted an older Scout program. We had the same concerns about loss of leadership and "cliquish" behavior.


We didn't carve them out into a separate full-time patrol, but left them in their permanent experienced patrols. They serve in Troop and patrol PORs, but break out into a VP during skill instruction, and have done separate VP activities away from meetings. We don't let a VP activity conflict with a Troop one. They do have VP t-shirts, which they can wear in lieu of the regular Troop T if they want.


So far, it seems to be scratching their itch, they're staying involved with the Troop and their PORs, and there haven't been any conflicts I can think of...



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just a basic question - without grabbing our 3-ring binders of Scouting stuff -

What's the difference in concept between a normal Troop patrol, a Venture Patrol within the Troop, and the external Crew ?

Ignoring the "age" and potential girl thing, what else do these alternative Scouting venues technically offer to the 14+ Scout that is not available as part of the normal Troop within a "senior" patrol.



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I should note that a Venture Patrol has almost nothing in common with a Venturing Crew. The program that a Venture Patrol is most closely related to is the Varsity Scout Team. In most respects, a Venture Patrol in a Troop and a Varsity Scout Squad in a Team are nearly identical in terms of program and activities.


In fact, most of the Varsity awards can be earned by members of a Venture Patrol.


Keep in mind that despite its name, a Varsity Scout Team is not necessarily sports related.

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  • 7 months later...

here's an update on our 14 yr old Scout...

who has gone to JLTC, wanted to staff at JLTC, but had a conflict with Jamboree,

and melted at Jambo 2005 -

Here is an email that was exchanged within our Troop.


He has had over a year to work on 2 MB's + Eagle Project.


Much to my disappointment,

I think he has succumb to the 14+ syndrome.


You reach that point where you have achieved First Class,

and all the MB's that are served up on a platter via troop or MBU clinics,

but still need some things on your own.... but have never done that on your own.


Also - there is no need for you to attend any Troop/Crew meetings or outings

since those yield no "results" for your advancement... why bother.


And the external influences and older troop peers do not reinforce interest

or attendance to even those special events like COH's.

When was the last time the troop has seen Life Scouts (soon to be awarded Eagle) Alex, Nick, Adam, Will, or Ted - without having to kick them out for causing trouble.

Who else portrayed the Scout image better than Paul M. when he was wearing his full uniform at COHs.


He no longer gets anything from Scouting,

and when he has tried with teaching camping skills or being SPL,

he has done it alone with the rest of the leadership team off in a back room

or fighting with sticks....


Now - he is doing things that are appreciated, recognized,

and building his self esteem/image.

He is ref'ing soccer games for the Park District every Saturday,

swimming on the YMCA swim team (last year he made District & State)

and later will swim on the NNHS swim team.

In the spring, he will try to leverage his 1st, 2nd, 3rd track records for NNHS.


Plus - emotionally, he has gone thru a spring time girlfriend, a summer time girlfriend, etc...

Sad to say - Scouting at this point has little to offer him...


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  • 2 weeks later...

When the new Scoutmaster took over we decided we needed to reorganize the patrols. Anyone below first class was put in the new scout patrol. First Class, Star and even one Life Scout below the age of 14 were put in the Experienced Scout patrol. All of the other scouts above age 14 were put into a Venture patrol.


Breaking the group into sections rather then mixed patrols actually worked out better for our troop. The first year scouts had the freedom of trying to figure things out instead of an older scout showing them the first time. The experienced scouts could work on badges that they needed or wanted to do rather then being bored with the "book work" eagle badges.


The Venture Patrol (while still being required to help lead and teach now and then) could plan activities they wanted to do like whitewater canoeing, an archery free-shoot, backpacking, etc.


The district my troop is in is very active so we have ended up with the unusual situation that most of our Venture Patrol has earned their Eagles at ages 15 and 16, and the experienced patrol is now taking over most of the leadership positions except for the SPL position.


When it comes to planning activities we have a lot of "troop" activities and we have several "patrol" activities. The first year patrol has a couple pre-planned skills campouts which are run by the Troop Guide with the help of the First Year's ASM. The experienced scouts have activities usually related to the Merit Badges they are working on. The Ventures have their own high adventure activities that they plan and run.


Now I agree with several of the posts about Venture Crews being more harm then good for most scout troops since they tend to pull away older scouts. A Venture Patrol on the other hand can work to help keep scouts in but High School, Girls, Sports Teams, etc are still going to pull some scouts away no matter what you do.


The only question I have when it comes to Venture Patrols is what awards are they allowed to earn. Right now we are just treating them as a high-adventure group, but are they allowed to earn for example the "Ranger" award? I've sent an email to my District Exec asking him about this.

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