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getting to patrol method/ boy led

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My son crossed over into a Troop last March while I took a vacation from leadership after 5 years of cubs. I've been an active parent in the new troop and observing how things are done there while reading up (here and elswhere) about how its supposed to look. Now I'm ready to get back into leadership and have signed up for all the training that's offered.


I find our troop giving only lip service to the patrol method and barely even that to boy-led. Patrols are in-name-only; nothing is really done by patrol. PL's are there to get their leadership months checked off on their advancement requirements. In the first six months, not one patrol meeting, not one outing using patrols. Boy-led means the SPL stands in front of the troop meeting and , when he attends, leads the opening ceremony. Then the adults take over.


The adult leadership are long-time devoted Scouters, SM is well trained, either doing or intructing WB, father of an eagle, very devoted to the boys and the job, but seems to be doing it in a different way than described in the handbooks. There's a strong emphasis on making Eagle quickly. He has expressed interest in working on patrol method and boy-led. My question is how do you take a troop from where this one is to boy-led and using the patrol method. I can see how its supposed to work, but I have a hard time seeing how to get from here to there. For those who have made such a transition, how do you get there? which steps do you take first? How do you do boy-led when the older boys have never seen boy-led?



scout's dad

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Can you "mask" recommendations for changes as exuberance about information you learned in your recent/upcoming training?


I'm picturing you essentially developing your own short training session the covers the stuff you think is not know/done by your troop, present that information to the committee, and then emphasize "this is what we're supposed to be doing" and "most of the the scouters taking the training said this is what their troops are already doing and it really works.


The approach is not "this is what you're NOT doing", but "this is what we could be doing".


This is kind of what happened when I started as a leader in Cub Scouts in needing to change some minor issues ... though it really was exuberance on my part.


BTW, I'm entering my 5th year as a den leader and defintely understand your need for some time off ... and your excitement to help your boys' troop.

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Hoo-boy! If the SM is insrtucting Wood Badge, then he sould be familiar with the boy-led troop concept. It's part of the WB/21st Century program. It could be that he needs to go through the classroom part of Scoutmaster Fundamentals again. If the sylabus has changed since he went through SMF, he might be interested in how the program has changed (And it has.).


The boy-led troop takes a lot of the up-front responsibility off the adults' hands. Let him know that. The SM is now seen as a coach/ facilitator. He trains the SPL, ASPL, and PL's to run the troop. He does that at troop (boy)leader trainings. This can be run like SMF: An afternoon of "theory" and a weekend campout for the PLC only where the boys see how a boy-led troop is run. Adults have two oppurtunities to talk during a troop meeting - announcements and the Scoutmaster's Minute. The boys do eveything else.


Get the troop committee on-side about this. You have a wonderful resource in this veteran SM. Let him know that he is working too hard at his job; that he needs to learn to work smarter:


SM Position #1: Standing in the background, hands in pockets, eyes on the action, and telling the SPL what he is doing good (often!) and where the SPL could be doing better.


SM Position #2: Sitting down in a chair, holding coffee cup, eyes on the action, etc.


Ask your SM to explain the management techniques explained in WB/21stCentruy using the four squares, the little circle, and all the little arrows in the squares. See if he doesn't click when you lable the little circle "SM".

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I am too tired right now (just got back from Camporee) to give a long response, so I might expand on this later.


Most of the advise that I could give you, would be a repeat of what has already been said in other threads. I agree with pretty much all of Greying Beaver said.

However, one piece of advise that i will give you now, is be prepared to recieve the following response when you bring it up the the committee or SM:

"What we are doing now works, why change it"


Not sure how to answer that, but just something to think about.




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Scout's dad

Welcome to the campfire! We've been saving a place for you!!


You're smart to ask questions - most or all of us have been through this. I've seen exactly the same situation - right down to WB instructor SM. It's tough and will likely be a slow process.


Good advise in posts above.


Another approach to keep in bag of tricks: Get active in the game - support meetings, campouts, etc. You'll have to grit your teeth sometimes, but hang in there. You'll get more first-hand insights into inner workings. And adults/boys will begin to accept you as part of the team. (It's much harder to have an influence when you're seen as someone on the outside making comments.) As problems arise - and they will - be ready to thoughtfully, respectfully make recommendations or ask leading questions to guide discussion in the proper direction. Easy does it. It will, at best, be an evolutionary process as long as current SM is in place. I found late night adult discussions around the glowing embers of a campfire to be the place they were most receptive.


My story: Our WB instructor SM held onto the existing ways with great tenacity. Some of the other adults began to see the points I was making, but we were only allowed to tweak the existing system in small ways. After a few (frustrating) years, the WB SM handed over the reigns to new SM. New SM immediately came to me, said he was really impressed by the thought I had put into revamping our program, and asked for a complete plan to bring it on track. It was a tumultuous year, but its up and running. Some families liked the previous Eagle Mill environment more, so our registration numbers dropped by about 20%. But our campout attendance went up about 400% and our active involvement of high school aged scouts increased by much more.

Hardest single task: Training junior leaders to really do their jobs. This took continuous coaching and mentoring.

Biggest single mistake: Not having a parents meeting to introduce them to all of the changes in a controlled environment where we could answer questions and concerns.

Post note: Were now in our 3rd year. Leader training is not as difficult because the up-and-coming leaders have seen program being modeled by the older guys. Overall registration numbers are climbing. Not all is perfect, but weve come a long ways. And it was definitely worth it!


Good luck!



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Remember, this is like a big ship, you can't turn it on a dime. You'll need to do some work to make this happen. And, since you're not the SM, it may take even longer.


Some suggestions (long term), get some boys to attend NYLT. This gives them a better understanding of both boy-run and the patrol system. Our SPL came back this year with tons of interest in developing a stronger patrol system.


Start young - get the first year guys into an NSP and force the patrol concept on them from the get-go. This helps with the transition.


We're trying to become more patrol-oriented (primarily being pushed by the SPL). This weekend we're holding our own troop "camporee". We're operating totally within the patrol system. The troop leadership (adults & sr. leaders) are acting as the district camporee staff would. Each patrol is running their own campsite, deciding their own menu, shopping for their own food, etc. They're also responsible for all preparation (practicing lashings, etc.). I'm excited about what this may do for our troop. If it works, it may be an idea for you to share with your guys as well.

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My question is how do you take a troop from where this one is to boy-led and using the patrol method. I can see how its supposed to work, but I have a hard time seeing how to get from here to there


The quickest short cut to the Patrol Method is to physically separate the Patrols AS FAR AS POSSIBLE!


If you live in the north, this is hard to do in the winter if you camp in cabins, but separate Patrol lean-tos can work very well!


SM is well trained, either doing or instructing WB


If in your area they separate Patrol sites a good distance during Wood Badge, then separating your own Patrols will be familiar to him, at least as a concept. This might be a topic for "late night adult discussions around the glowing embers of a campfire".


PL's are there to get their leadership months checked off on their advancement requirements.


Oh well, good Patrol Quartermasters are far more important than the Patrol Leaders anyway :-) A Patrol can get by with bad leadership, as long as they have all the food and supplies they need to camp independently. Promote the best Patrol Quartermasters to "Troop Quartermasters" so that they have their "leadership months" (and a badge) too, but keep them doing Patrol Quartermastership (you can have as many "Troop Quartermasters" as your number of Patrols).




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Ok, there are several ways to get to a Boy-led Patrol-Method troop but the first step has to be with the adults. Discuss the situation with the Committee and the Scoutmasters. They need to take a hard look at what they are doing vs. what the scouts should be doing. The committee is a support tool for the scoutmasters to help with finance, safety, equipment, recruiting, etc. The Scoutmasters are the guides. They help teach and guide scouts to become effective leaders and outstanding citizens. They need to be able to look at the situation and stand back and watch. Many times the scouts will fail at what they are doing but if you don't give them the chance they won't learn. After they fail you might step in and teach them what they did wrong but as long as they are doing things safely, failure can teach them better then success.


The next step is the patrols themselves. The Scoutmaster needs to define the patrols and make the seperate by having them make patrol flags, have patrol meetings, having some patrol outings rather then all troop outings, create patrol spirit through competition. In my troop's case we decided we wanted to divide the patrols by age and rank rather then have mixed patrols. This created the situation where we had 3 patrols (first years/experienced scouts/older scouts).


Some troops like to have mixed patrols using the older scouts for all the leadership. For my troop having the first years in their own patrol gave them the chance to figure out how to setup a tent, lash a tower, etc instead of an older patrol leader coming over and doing it for them. If they got stuck the Troop Guide is always there to teach them. The experienced scouts mostly focus on merit badges and learning leadership. The older scouts (mainly former boy leaders of the troop) were put into a Venture patrol where they could plan their activities while still remaining in the troop. Not every troop goes for this configuration so you will have to figure out what works best for your troop. When it came to competitions between patrols we just the difficulty level for each group at appropriate levels. Example first aid competition: (first years - skills questions, exp scouts - fa merit badge, older scouts - emergency prep mb)


After defining the patrols, the next step is leadership and planning. All of the office positions need to go through a troop junior leader training. The patrol leaders, ASPL, SPL, Quartermaster, Scribe, Librarian, etc, etc, need to learn what their jobs are and what is expected of them. They also need to learn to work together as a TEAM! The Junior Leader Training or JLT is the most important job of the Scoutmaster. While the Assistant Scoutmasters focus on helping the patrols and the program, the Scoutmaster should focus on his youth leadership. There are many JLT course outlines online and at scout shops, some are indoor classroom and some are weekend campouts.


Once everyone learns their jobs they need to do their jobs. One of the things my troop did was to make the policy that all leadership requirements (Star, Life, Eagle) where the scout has to serve a length of time in a position, can only be signed by the Scoutmaster after a review by the SPL and ASPL. This put an end to scouts signing up to being the Librarian and not doing anything but wear the patch for the length of time.


Plan, Plan, Plan. The leadership group should then create a one year plan for the entire year. They should write in "canoe trip" or "camping trip" etc and put them on the calendar for the weekends they want to do them. The Committee can then take the calendar and find camping locations, make arrangements and reservations, etc. Monthly the leadership group then looks at the upcoming 3 and 6 months. The first 3 Months should be the fine details like menu planning, duty rosters, etc. The Second 3 Months are making final calendar changes and arranging counselors.


Finally and I quote from Greying Beaver


SM Position #1: Standing in the background, hands in pockets, eyes on the action, and telling the SPL what he is doing good (often!) and where the SPL could be doing better.


SM Position #2: Sitting down in a chair, holding coffee cup, eyes on the action, etc.




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I'll disagree with drakmund on one point, but bear in mind that I'm smack in the middle of the very same challenge myself. "Canoe trip" might be sufficient to write into a plan, as the options are probably limited, but rather than just scheduling "camping trip" I believe the boys should select the locations. Provide them with options and ideas, but let them pick. I say this because in the past our committee has done the bulk of the scheduling, with the result that the same locations are sheduled year after year. Turnout last year was 9 out of 38 Scouts? Doesn't matter, they're comfortable with the familar locations.

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Eagle76, sorry about the wording on planning. We do let the scouts choose the locations they want to go to but we usually put the burden of finding new places and making reservations with place on the Committee. What I meant was that the scouts need to make a broad year or even two year plan about what they want to do and where they want to go, the committee needs to then approve it and help the scoutmasters make arrangements. As they get closer to time the planning then needs to become more detailed (6 months out) till they get down to the 3 month planning which should be the fine details like menus, duty rosters, etc.


The only problem would be if the scouts start picking the same places, mainly because they don't know of other places they can go to. My troop got stuck in a rut for about 2 years, going to the same places over and over till the adults step'd in an gave the scouts a choice of places they could go to (all of them new locations). We still let them decide as long as it was some place new.

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drakmund -


We've had the same issue come up - guys always picking the same thing. Often it's because they don't have anything to reference accept what they've done before. I've given them links to other troop websites, lists of ideas, handouts/brochures, etc. In the end, I had to set a goal for them to think outside of the box and come up with some creative ideas. They eventually did, and we've had our best program year ever. Now the test will be to see if they can do it again.

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Hi all,


The transition from "boy led" by ADULTS and real BOY LED by BOYS is a long, tough trek...but it is worth it.


Our boys do everything but supply the credit card and make the reservations. But it did not happen over night...One tool we have found extremely helpful is a troop-wide scout survey.


Years ago it was apparent that "this years" program looked exactly like last years, and the next last year, and on and on. The troop had a good solid outdoor program with some great events but they were the same every year. The SM (at the time) was a great guy but very controling and his SPLs usually deferred to his "wants"...One year an adult committee person asked the SPL if the troop membership had any imput and got a, "yeah, the PLC puts it together". the question was repeated as, "do all the boys really tell you what they would like to do???" This time the answer was, "sort of, I guess, well, probably not, but what do the little kids know".


This troop elects its new SPL in the early summer so he gets "practice at Summer Camp" it also gives the SM a chance to work with him "one on one" for several days/evenings in a row.


That particular year, the committee member worked up a program survey where the scouts were asked to rate each troop activity they participated in over the last year, why they did or did not participate what they liked about summer camp. Then, what kind of "things" they wanted to try next year. A list of every activity that could be found in the field book and handbook were listed and the scouts were asked to rank these according to what they would like to try. This survey (after 'vetting' by the SM and SPL) was given to the scouts on the bus trip home from summer camp (we charter a bus and find it a great way to help 'bond' the boys into a tight group). having the survey filled out on the return trip from summer camp helps the younger boys "remember" any exciting things the boys were exposed too at camp so we "get it all".


The (new) SPL is asked to review and statistically report his findings to the PLC and SM...they can then use this tool to gauge the possible interest in new activities and new places.

The SPL, PLC and SM then work on the next years program and present it to the committee in August...each year is a new mixture of the "old" events and some new...There are still a few "traditional" events on the calendar that the "old troop" started and the boys love...and there are a few new traditional outtings. Each year is slightly different and camp sites are rarely the same...


No the boys don't "know" all this stuff but the adult leaders feed (suggestions, ideas concepts)...the possibilities to the scouts and they run with it...the boys are shown maps of camp areas and search the web. We take part in district camporees and the SPL swaps information with other SPLs at the cracker barrels.


It's cool when a plan finally comes together (but it was three years before we really had the whole troop tracking down the right path. And for the last four years it has been an ongoing struggle, particularly with new parents who want to see everyone quietly sitting on their hands and respectfully listening to the drone of a merit badge or "rank" requirements class, keeping the boys from being lazy, or too crazy... just like herding cats...

good luck


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anachist is right on..it's not an overnight "miracles"..in my troop, I herd "chickens" though rather than cats...they're much flightier and prone to scatter quickly! ;) Yesterday was my 1 yr anniversary of taking over as the SM and some of my boys are just -starting- to get the concept of what a BLT is! When I took over, I told them that it was my "goal" for THEM, that within 1 yrs time, to give them the skills that they needed be able to plan and totally execute a major troop event with as little adult help as possible! WE haven't quite reached that goal, but it is coming and that is good enough for me! I am satisfied if I go to a meeting and see -1- positive step in the right direction each week (even if I also sometimes see 3 steps backwards too!) I've recently seen a BIG change in some of the boys so I am ever hopeful!!


sue m

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