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We have about 22 scouts in our troop. About half came from the same pack but these scouts are on the young side, 12 years and below. The rest are from various other troops with a large contingent from a single troop that folded.


The four patrols are all by age:

Patrol 1 (15-16 years old) seven scouts

Patrol 2 (13 years old) three scouts

Patrol 3 (12 years old)seven scouts

Patrol 4 (11 years old)five scouts


The scoutmasters have observed strong cliquish behavior. The older patrol pretty much calls all other scouts "the little one". When the duties are dived up the older patrol seems to get the trash pick up in the shade while the younger scouts get latrine cleaning.


The scoutmasters have taken a look at this and have decided to push for patrol realignment with mixed age patrols. The notion is that we have some of our most talented and experienced scouts, even some with recently minted NYLT just sort of sitting around, while the younger scouts struggle or worse have to rely on adults (parents) to assist with scout skills.


So I approached the PLC last night about realigning the patrols into mixed aged patrols. It was not well received! The SPL told me he wants to do away with the patrol system. He used the troop method at his last troop and it worked much better. His old troop tried the patrol method and it didn't work.


They all identified that the patrol with only 3 scouts is not good. And that the NPS should be moved into the other patrols. If left completely to itself it could develop into a two patrol troop with one patrol all young and from the same pack and another the older patrol mostly from the same former troop.


What I want to say say is look the mixed aged patrol is where we need to be and we need to get on with this. But the resistance to this was greater than I had perceived it would be. The older scouts only want to be with older scouts.








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If there are difficulties in a troop, taking some kind of action to make things better would be in order. Before proceeding with any particular action, you might look forward and ask:

Will the older boys now start cleaning latrines?

Will the older boys now like to hang with the younger boys?

Will the NYLT boys now stop sitting around?


In our troop, mixing up patrols solved no problems and actually led to patrol instability. I found that boys will hang with who they want to hang with and the patrol patch on their sleeve doesnt change that. We had better success with older boys as Instructors or Troop Guides. Boys that are bored will still be bored. Boys react to excitement in the program, and re-membering the patrols didnt create any excitement.

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Ye, 16 year-olds don't want to hang out with 11 year-olds very often.


In the old WB Course, once the patrols had gotten to know each other and bonded, the SM and SPL would get into an argument about how the course was going. The SM argued things were going very badly, and the only way to correct it was to re-align the patrols. So he tells everyone to line up in a single-file line and count off 1 - 8, with all the 1's going into the new Beaver Patrol. The participants didn't care for this, and some would threaten to leave if they were shuffled. The point was to teach how the boys would feel if the same was done to them.


I don't have your dilema, as all our boys are first and second year Scouts. I am considering following the advice of an old seasoned SM, who would pull the Scout out of the patrol once he had served as PL. His theory is once the Scout had held that position, he didn't really want to have to serve under another PL, who may be younger and lower rank than him. I think he used a JLC for the PLs that moved out of the patrols. Being that we are young and small, I will try to encourage the PLs to serve two terms (1 year), if they can get elected twice, before moving them out. Once we get a little larger and older, we may also require they be 14 and 1st Class before moving out. These are issues I plan on discussing with 4 mentors, and see if we can come up with a workable plan.


The older Scouts with the Green Bar training should make excellent SPLs, ASPLs, Troop Guides, QMs, etc. Whether you call it a JLC or Venture Patrol, I would let them stay together, but ask them to provide leadership to the patrols and troop. We don't use NSPs or age-based patrols. We like the idea of the slightly older Scouts teaching the new Scouts in their patrols. I'm afraid if you force those older Scouts into patrols with the younger boys, you are going to lose them.

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From the bit of info provided, it would seem that this unit is boy-led, troop-method, and those that "tried" patrol-method didn't really try very hard.


I have worked in both settings and patrol groupings in a troop-method approach are pretty much useless, at least the boys recognized this. As was said, boys will hang with their buddies anyway. Patrol realignment for convenience of camporee competition is common and any resemblence of patrol-method is only good for setting a good impression or assigning work duty. (No wonder patrol-method gets a poor reputation).


I find that the only way one accomplishes patrol-method scouting is to use the servant-leadership style. This focus-on-others approach goes a long way towards team-building and esprit-de-corps in the patrol. One never gets the "Us and Them" responses to issues in the unit. It is obvious that the troop in question is strongly "us and them".


Before one retries the patrol-method (even patrol realignments in a troop-method program) one has to be able to understand: "What is in the best interest of the troop/patrol?". Until that happens, it is my opinion that one will only spin their wheels and frustrate themselves along the way.


I would suggest the approach I did with my boys to make the change. I took the most "caring" older boy of the troop and made him TG. It then became his responsibility to work with all new boys from that point onward. No one messes with the new boys unless it goes throught he TG first. He determines the most caring of the older boys and places them as PL of the NSP's as they develop. The only "training" the PL's get is: "Take care of your boys!" With the assistance of the TG, this older PL "protects" the NSP from being taken advantage of, leads them in the difficult tasks, and works autonomously from the troop (You are a PANTHER first, and a member of Troop #XXX second). The PL's contribution to the PLC is to only inform them of the steps he is taking to take care of his patrol. ("We'll be happy to do latrines when our turn in the rotation comes up, but not until then.") He decides whether or not it is in the best interest of his boys. If working together with the other patrols is in the best interest of his boys, then it happens.


If successful one can expect some great things from the boys, especially in the arena of leadership development. The older boys look forward to having the opportunity to really lead and the younger boys are assimilated into the troop with the protection of an "older scout brother" to watch over them and care for them. Just let the older boys who are presently digging in their heels age out and soon the troop will naturally switch over to the patrol-method.


I was doing a SM minute this past week (I've been on board with this new troop for 1 year now) and was talking about this whole issue. I asked them what the proper action would be to deal with a PL that wasn't doing his job. One boy of the NSP simply said, "Help him be better."


I'm gearing up for 30 new boys in Feb '09. That means assimilating these boys into 3 existing patrols and adding 3 more. (Not bad since last year at this time we had 5 scouts, 3 of which have since quit because they didn't like the "new program")


Some of the existing scouts will be moving out of the patrols down to troop level positions and three of the boys will be handpicked to take over the 3 new patrols (This is hard to do because the boys have a strong pull/loyalty to their patrols). Those three boys have been identified as those who have reached FC within the first 6 months of crossing over and want the top job of PL.


Those who are already in a patrol will stay there and have their numbers filled out with new scouts (Age Blending 101). Each patrol will be responsible for training their new members in the basics. The three totally new NSP's will have a TG work with them to get them up and running.


Does it work? I had 80% of my Webelos cross-overs go to summer camp, cook in site (menu prep, shopping, cooking, and cleaning for one day), get 2 merit badges and progress one rank (2nd Class) in the NS program. (They had been in the program for 3 months) All that was accomplished by the care and concern of their PL's only, who themselves were able to earn 3-4 merit badges of their own.


Boy-led, patrol-method does work, but one needs PL's that care more about others than themselves.



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Patrols are supposed to be "cliqueish". They are independent teams with a stronger relationsghip to the patrol than to the troop. It is supposed to be that way. A patrol leaders job is first to represent the needs and characteristics of his patrol to the troop. His second job is to represent the needs of the troop to the patrol. It is the SPL's responsibility to balance the two. So that troop provides the patrol the support it needs and the patrol supplies the troop the support that the troop needs.


If the problem is duty assignments that is the SPL respoonsibility to manage. Realligning the patrols is the wrong way to go.


As far as the SPL determining troop operations. Youth lead the activities. Adults lead the program. There is a reason for difference.


Your problems are ones of troop leadership and not patrol configuration. If the patrols have a close inner relationship between its members that's a good thing, that's teamwork. Leave them alone. If the team is not working toward the right goals then that's a leadership issue...train the leaders.



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>>What I want to say say is look the mixed aged patrol is where we need to be and we need to get on with this. But the resistance to this was greater than I had perceived it would be. The older scouts only want to be with older scouts.

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We had used homogeniously mixed patrols for about 6 months last year. The trouble we had was that the boys of similar ages grouped together at meetings and campouts. Last September I had just finished reading Bill Hillcout's Scoutmaster's Handbook from 1959, I think that is the year. I don't know the exact wording but it basically said let the Scouts decide who should be in their Patrols.


So I made sheet with all the Scouts names on it. Each Scout was asked to pick up to 10 Scouts he most wanted in his patrol. (We only allow up to 8 in Patrols for the most part) I then plotted this information on a spreadsheet with the boys names on both the vertical and horizontal. I made special notes when Scouts picked each other or more importantly if 3 or more Scouts pick each other.


What we found was that Scouts seemed to like being with Scouts within a year or two of their age most of the time. So we have mixed age patrols but the age differences don't stretch 7 years the biggest difference is 3 years and that is only on case. When our Webelos crossed over we kept them together.


At our PLC meeting last Saturday our SPL asked if we should rearange the Patrols so the new Scouts could have a chance to be mentored by an older Scout. I was about to ask him why and talk about older Scout pitching in if needed when a 7th grade Patrol leader said simply "I would rather we didn't". A long discussion followed and what we decided was that we would set up some sort of system for trading patrol members. In this way we can tweak the existing patrols when needed but the strong teams that have formed over the last year would stay together. We ran out of time so the discussion will continue next month. I am not sure what the criteria will be but not being fond of rules or guidelines it will probably be pretty open but an honest commitment. Meaning the Scout involved and both Patrols have to be happy with the change and the Scout will need to remain in his new Patrol for some set period of time.


Hope this helps,



PS I am with Barry; "I love this Scouting Stuff."!(This message has been edited by ASM 411)

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Yah, Its Me. Good on yeh for takin' on a hard challenge, and startin' to have a vision for where you'd like to go. Now extend your timeframe a bit. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the journey is as much fun as the destination, eh? Think about gettin' there in three to five years. And think about enjoyin' the journey with the boys you've got.


So there's gonna be some give-and-take, eh? That's good. Kickin' around ideas is how the boys eventually change their way of thinkin' about things. Better for you to specify goals than methods, eh? Tell 'em what you see at present and what you'd like to see, and let the discussion go for a bit.


Maybe next year you are a Venture-and-Service patrol of 15-16 year olds (who get to do their own high adventure but also get to be "senior coaches" for the other patrols). Do some special trips for them that are challenging and build skills and a service-to-each-other mindset, eh? Then treat 'em like adults to help out with the rest of the guys.


Maybe yeh also get two mixed-age patrols of middle schoolers who have fun and compete with each other. They want to mix in da NSP and feel the 3-person patrol is bad, so that might be where that goes, eh? Recruit a couple natural leaders from your 13 year olds or older 12 year olds for PL/APL in each. Take them with a few caring older boys on a special/fun/challenging TLT weekend to get things goin' by word and example.


Maybe yeh get somethin' a bit different, and yeh run with that because it makes sense to you and your kids!


As long as you're moving in a good direction and enjoying the journey, it should be a grand adventure. Have fun buildin' Rome, but not in a day!




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Beavah's time line has a second advantage to it. A lot of the older boys who will be resistant to the changes will age out and be replaced by the younger boys more accustomed to new patrol-method approach. There's nothing wrong with running one program for older boys and something entirely new/different for the younger boys. Get all the older boys who are resistant to change in the Venture Patrol and let them age out of the program gracefully and organize the others into a patrol-method approach. If the young boys aren't there to clean the latrines for the older boys, they'll just have to adjust. They shouldn't be bullying them anyway with the system they have implemented for themselves.


If there are a few of the older boys who catch some excitement in the new program, they will be the ones that will spearhead up your new patrol-method unit. If not, then develop your leadership out of the younger boys.


I only had 6 older boys when I changed the unit I'm in now. 3 quit and 3 are 100% onboard with the new system. Basically the three that quit did so because no one was going to cater to their wishes as was done in the past. I tried lining up a 6 person Venture Patrol for them, but 3 wanted in on the new boy-led, patrol-method and wasn't interested in a Venture Patrol.


I'm sure that the older boys are not 100% on the same page and some might enjoy an opportunity to make some constructive changes in the troop. Spend some time visiting with the boy individually when they will be more open than when sitting around their peers.



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the BSA programs has for many many years recommended that patrols be made of youth of similar age and intersts.


There is nothing wrong with your current patrol groupings. The fact that the scouts do not want to see their patrols chaged is evidence of that.


What you need to do is train the leadership to understand that this is how the patrols are supposed to be and teach them how to use this sense of team to function toward the common goals.


This is a leadership issue and not a problem caused by the patrol membership.

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"Ye, 16 year-olds don't want to hang out with 11 year-olds very often."


That's because of the way that we seperate kids by age for everything else. I've said this before but I'll say it again. In olden days (1960s), when parents weren't involved in every aspect of their children's activities, the older kids in the neighborhood acted as mentors and teachers for the younger kids.


We didn't have football coaches at age seven back then, it was the older kids who taught us how to play. If we got out of line, the older kids would explain proper behavior.


We looked up to the older kids. We wanted to be like them. Sure they didn't want us around all the time but that was part of the learning process too. There are some things for young kids and there are others for older kids. We also learned that there are times and places for everything. For example, if there were some older guys talking and you walked up and generated some especially noxious gas, that was okay. You might get chased away but it was a guy thing. Now if those same guys were chatting with some young ladies, you learned quickly that gas passing was appropriate.


Now what do we have? Everthing split out by age. Kids don't play together outside. Older kids leave it up to the parents to be the mentors.

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The other issue buried in all this and may even be the root cause, is that I have a SPL who refuses to recognize the patrol method. I have made numerous attempts to get him to use his patrol leaders, to consults with his patrol leaders that it his responsibility to develop a strong patrol leaders council. He, at every attempt has ignored these pleas. On several occasions his words and actions have matched, he wants to do away with the patrol method. Do away with the PLC and have all report to him.


So I have eared in my program in developing a SPL with a strong sense of the patrol method. No amount of death by power point, SPL manual reviews, one-on-ones will change this scout's opinion that the Patrol method is a flawed method. He is a transferred scout who entered my program 8 months ago as a tenderfoot at age 14 with no PL or POR experience. I am tempted to ask for a contact at his old unit to see if they actually did disband the patrol method.


I am also temted to just sit tight through his tenor and see if the next SPL has a better appreciation for the patrol method.







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