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patrol identity/honor patrols

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We have a new SM who is doing a great job so far. He really seems to "get" scout aged boys and he has several years of experience as an ASM to draw from, so he has a good sense of the BSA program and of where our troop can improve our delivery of that program.


Over the weekend while camping he and I ended up talking about how to strengthen patrol identity. There are a variety of issues here, but one thing he has decided is that he wants to have some kind of monthly patrol award. Right now he''s calling it an honor patrol award, but it needs a name-change and he is also still working on what the criteria for this ought to be. He doesn''t want to start out with the National Honor Patrol that''s in the scout handbooks. He wants something shorter term and (I think) a bit simpler. I suggested he look at some of the Green Bar sites on the web, but I think that''s more of a long-term goal and in the meantime we need some smaller steps to take.


Do you have any kind of regular patrol recognition/awards in your troop besides either the National Honor Patrol or the Green Bar concept? If so, I''d appreciate hearing the details. Or, if you wanted to create a "local" patrol award for a troop that is revamping its use of the patrol method, what would be the one or two most important criteria that you''d want to see as part of that award?


I can provide some detail about current patrol set-up if people want, but I didn''t want to make this post any longer than it already is.


Knowing that discussion of the proper use of the patrol method can be *almost* as passionate as discussion of proper uniforming, I will add this caveat: please don''t give me long rants about how we''re "doing it all wrong" because that isn''t terribly helpful. Our troop is a perpetual work in progress and we know we''re not perfect - no need to beat it into us!



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I am a new scoutmaster myself, and served for a few years as ASM. At that time I got a copy of the 1960''s version of the scoutmasters handbook and found a description of a patrol competition towards the back of the book (I kind of liked it when you could carry a handbook in your pocket.)


It described using a point system to count things like:


-Number of scouts in full uniform.

-Number of scouts on the campout.

-Number of advancements or merit badges recieved.

-Number of visitors brought to a troop meeting.


The patrol that recieved the most points at the end of two months gets a prize.


We tried it with mixed results. I think you need to spend some time promoting it, and taking some meeting time covering it and counting the points in front of the scouts. We should have had a big poster showing the results from each week. And we needed to get the PLC more involved. It was hard to gage the feelings of the boys towards this. They did not seem very excited.


Still, we did see more progress with uniforms. At the end of two months we had a pizza party for the winners. I would like to try this again.


You could call it the "Excellence in Scouting" award, and make a badge for the winners that reads "Member: EOS patrol".


It is all about constant and immediate recognition.



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I really like this idea of a monthly competition. The variations and possibilities are endless. Since your stated goal is to strengthen patrol identity, here are a couple thoughts off the top of my head:

- Points for having the patrol flag at every troop meeting

- Points for performing the patrol yell at every troop meeting

- Patrol competitions for points: knot relay, compass course, etc.


And maybe it's not very original or creative, but for a name, how about "Patrol of the Month"?(This message has been edited by Eagle76)

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I think I have the same book as allengr1024. This one belonged to my old SM, and he gave it to me when he swore me in as SM of our new Troop. 1959 edition, 1967 printing. He wrote a nice inscription in the front.


Lisa, if you can find a copy of this book, I highly recommend it. Great games and other ideas in it.


This section, under Patrol Recognition, outlines a system of points to be awarded for:

Attendance at Troop Activities

--Troop meeting - % of patrol present

-- % of patrol in complete uniform

--Troop hike - % of patrol present times 2


Attendance at Patrol Activities

(sort of the same as above)



--% of patrol members paid in full



--Second Class - 100 points

--First Class - 150 points

--Each merit badge - 50 points

Patrol Games and Special Competitions

--First Place - 50 or 100 points

--Second Place - 30 or 60 points

--Third Place - 10 or 30 points


Special Features - outstanding patrol projects or such, awarded by the SM at his discretion.


"Experience has shown that it is unwise to include any penalties in a point contest of this kind. A positive stimulus is much better than a negative threat or punishment."


The book stresses the success of the program is in letting the boys (PLC) set up the criteria and points. It also suggests a wall chart of some sort to let the patrols see where they stand. I like the idea included of painting a frieze along the top of the wall of a river, with a tree, a boulder, and other items at regular intervals, representing point intervals. Each patrol is represented as a canoe paddling toward the end of the river. First canoe to the finish line wins. Run it for two or three months and start over. If you run it too long and a patrol gets way behind, they will lose interest.

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Our previous troop had the "Gold Cup" award, which was nothing more than a beat-up metal camp cup that had been spray painted gold with a rope attached.


After each campout, the cup was passed to the patrol which showed the most spirit, best uniformin'' and kept the cleanest campsite.


We also had an Honor Scout recognition that we''d give to the Scout who showed the most spirit and best uniformin'' (which was usually someone from another patrol than the Gold Cup awardee).

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  • 2 months later...

We've been looking at some type of patrol compitition too on a quarterly basis. I didn't know about the idea being in an old Scoutmaster's handbook but since I have most of them I'll look it up. Just wondering about the reward for winning. Thoughts have been anywhere from money (maybe $5 - $10 to each scout to his account) to a trophy passed from winning patrol to patrol. One thought was to allow the winning patrol to assign 1 task that they need to do such as doing their dished during a camping trip or latrine duty at summer camp to another patrol. Do you think this would work?

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My recommendation would be to stay away from monetary rewards. I think it takes away from identifying "honor", self-pride, and internal motivation.

I would also hesitate at winning patrol assigning tasks to other patrols - 3 reasons come to mind: 1) the SPL should be working with the PLC to make sure all tasks are covered and distributed fairly, 2)it perpetuates chores as something to be avoided and have someone else do, rather than as something necessary that everyone has to share, and 3)the new scout patrol will likely lose more often, and therefore will be getting assigned unpleasant tasks by the older scouts.

I do like your traveling trophy idea; its a great idea. I like eolesen's beat up camp cup, because it has developed special meaning within the troop. 20 years from now, scouts will fondly remember the quest for that old cup. They will not remember an extra $10 in their scout account.

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Thanks for the advice. I'm new at this and need all the help I can get! The money idea is something I was not inclined to do but was wondering if anyone else was doing. I'm still trying to find ways to increase attendance and membership in the troop. Reading these forums has given me some great ideas. Our troop has had declining membership for the last few years going from about 30 active boys to about 13. Lack of program and recruiting is the big reason for this. The program was not much, mostly car camping and nothing planned for troop meetings so goofing off was the usual activity. The Patrol Method was not being used, Scout camped in groups accourding to age with the older Scouts all camping under one big tarp regardless of which patrol they were in. No patrol flags, cheers or compititions. Uniforms were sometimes worn. At times only one of seven boys in a patrol would show up to a meeting, usually when that patrol had responsibilty for the meeting. The first thing I did when I became SM was to sit down with the Scouts and ask them what they wanted to do for camping trips, they seemed to just want to do the same old thing. I suggested things like bike hikes, canoe trips, backpacking (my hobby) and rock climbing. The Scouts took many of my suggestions and seem to be excited about the trips. We went on a 30 mile bike hike in October and the few boys that went had a great time. I heaped praise on these Scouts at the next troop meeting for making it the entire distance even though they had the opportunity to quit halfway through. I was really proud of them! The troop meetings now center on preparing for the upcoming camping trip and reviewing skills related to the theme of the month which relates to the camping trip. This is how I remember doing it 35 years ago. The Scouts are now responsible for choosing the theme, planning of meetings, and requesting the equipment / materials needed. Planning has to be in writing and submitted to the SPL a month ahead of time. My plan for recruiting is to develop and maintain good relations with the two packs in our area. Provide den chiefs, offer to loan camping equipment and invite Webelos to our meetings. In time I hope we can inprove our program and increase membership. I would appriciate any suggestions anyone has. Thanks for all the help!

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Looks like you're off to a great start with the youth and its leadership.

But don't forget about your Assistant Scoutmasters and the Troop Committee. As your program grows (and the membership as well), you will need to have the adults to support the Troop's growing program. Maybe you have all of these positions in place and trained, but just in case, make the Committee a high priority as well. Recruit, train, and encourage their performance. I know that sounds like a Scoutmaster and his youth leaders, but I have found that over the years, you MUST have the Committee foundation in place and working, to bring the program opportunities to the Scouts. It's nothing worse then having the Scouts excited about an upcoming camping trip or event, and the Scoutmaster has to cancel it at the meeting before the event due to the lack of transportation. You the Scoutmaster cannot take on all of this by yourself, so as you are reprograming the Troop, make the adult leadership a big priority.

My experience has been up and down. We are riding a big increase in our membership, but I cannot grow our Committee with dedicated adults to support this increase. I just had to cancel a December Lock-In event that is extremely popular (and planned by the Scouts every December), because we didn't have the adult support. As Scoutmaster, you just can't do it all.


Steady as she goes, and good Scouting,



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Way back when rocks were new, the troop I was in had set it up that whichever patrol earned the "Top Notch Patrol" award (I know...sounds corny but to us it was the holy grail!) the scoutmaster himself would cook the first meal of the next outing for the winning patrol (He was a REALLY good cook!) the areas of interest were:

uniform inspections - each boy started with 10 pts. every descrepancy was -1 pt., inspections were every other troop meeting.

merit badge completion - 5 pts per badge completed

scout spirit (patrol flag, cheer, participation) - awarded by SM/ASM as they deemed appropriate.


In addition to the meal the patrol was given "The Banner" (a ribbon with "Top Notch" on it) to attach to the patrol flag staff for the month, and a small engraved plate was attached to a plaque that listed the winners for the year, 3 years of plaques adorned the wall.

It may not seem like much but it kept us on our toes.


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Happy New All


>>the scoutmaster himself would cook the first meal of the next outing for the winning patrol (He was a REALLY good cook!)>>


The Scoutmaster who replaced me did kind of the same thing except he wasn't a great cook. So he did the Patrol's KP for Saturday nights dinner. It worked very well.


Ahhh I love this scouting stuff.



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Many moons ago when I was a youth, my SM found an old railroad spike on a campout. He then started giving it to the best patrol in the troop about every other month.


The award was known as the "Rusty Spike Award", and was proudly displayed on the winnig patrol's flag.


I don't know the criteria he used to award it, but I remember it was fun to hang that old piece of junk on our patrol flag, after beating out the other patrols in my troop.

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Our troop is blessed with a core group of parents who hold the various adult positions. We have a very supportive committtee and our COR who has held the SM job several times over the years has been a big help. It sounds like pizza at at troop meeting might be the reward for winning the patrol compitition along with some type of trophy. It helps that one of our Eagles from years ago ownes the local pizza shop!

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  • 2 months later...

Pizza for one patrol at Troop meeting... that sounds like you are asking for whining and complaining to start in... I can see the patrol that wins the pizza having the other boys hanging over them, saying "hey good buddy, you remember when I helped you out?" etc.. Too many of them will beg and bribe and it won't be a special thing for them.. The kids are indoctrinated with everything must be fair from everywhere else, so make it easy for the winners to enjoy the spoils of glory.


How about getting some pizza's to campout for that one patrol?? Or as supper when they return from camping? Little easier to see the winners can enjoy and the others are only slightly envious.. but not begging.. work it into program.. I also like idea of SM cooking or cleaning for patrol.

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I use the totally subjective, relative type of approach to the honor patrol identity. Like first chair in the orchestra, one earns it by being the best and keeps it by staying the best. At any time, the honor patrol flag comes off the patrol flag of the current holder and moves to the new patrol that has shown better at being a patrol than the others. This may pass weekly for a while until one patrol begins to figure out how the "scoring" is done, and then it's time to change up the "scoring". (That's not fair? Who said life's fair?) It may mean something as simple as one of the patrol members didn't have all his pocket buttons buttoned and the next patrol did. Maybe when we get to campout the one patrol has all their members there and in full uniform, whatever it takes to make your patrol stand out better than any of the others. The change from one patrol to the next is immediately done on the spot. The marker for the patrol flag should be moved with great flash and flurry. Let the boys figure out what that means by figuring out what it's going to take to top the current honor patrol. This allows for creativity, imagination, determination, etc., all those things that make good leadership. Of course the honor patrol reaps plenty of bennies as rewards. Those can be anything one wants them to be, but they have to be worthwhile to maintain the drive for the boys. It might be something as simple as a SM made cobbler. Just some indication that their efforts are appreciated.



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