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Webelos, NSP, Patrol Method

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Instead of hijacking the other thread, I would like to spin off a similar thread. Here is the scenario. We are a troop of 86 boys, 7 patrols

- 1 oldest age (8 juniors high school) patrol is somewhat inactive ... most are Eagles and eagling out ... hanging around waiting for high adventure trips

- 1 patrol of mostly sophomores and handful of freshmen (12 all Life Scouts with no urge to run the troop nor do anything ... too busy with AP classes, sports, and girls),

- 3 2nd year scouts patrol (7th graders). Very active and can easily be taught!

- 2 NSPs (ok now they are almost 1st year scouts). Very active!


Average patrol size is about 10. Don't ask! In our area where sports and school activities rule, this works out the best (ie. we get 6-8 at each campout for each patrol). We have been doing the new scout patrols (NSP) and are very fortunate to have on an average of 1-2 full NSPs each year.


For the past 10 years of existence, we have never carried one patrol forward in other words, the NSP created, stayed together, graduated or died off together! We are a troop with patrols of the same age! I have talked to several troops and I am interested in format where NSP scouts stayed together after the first year, First Class, or whatever ... and then migrate into existing patrols, creating mixed age patrols and not forever. This would allow a troop to keep "traditions", core patrols. What I don't know is how it should work.


1) NSP for how long? I have read the other threads, but there is no consistency! Is it defined anywhere that I can reference from? The scout stays in New Scout Patrol after: 1) first year? 2) First Class? or 3) Tenderfoot?


2) a) Let's say after first year, then how do you divide the NSP up? The "older patrols" pick the scouts to join them?

b) After the scout earns First Class scenario, then where does he go? Whichever patrol he wants to join? What if they don't want him?

c) After Tenderfoot? same with b) ... how does a scout pick the next patrol or does the patrol picks him? Who gets to choose?


3) What if the older scouts in the mixed patrols don't age out? The size will increase to an unmanageable size, no? Right now our patrols are 10 strong each. With 5 patrols, let's say we have 20 NSP scouts to div up, then each of the 5 patrols will get 4 scouts. They will be 14 after the first year we implement this. After year two, attrition (age out or quit) reduces it down by 2 scouts. Then 20 more NSP has to be divided up again, then we are adding 4 more ... etc. After four years, if there is very little attrition, we are looking at a mixed age patrol of 16 scouts! Uggggghhhhh.


What am I missing here? I need a magic wand! I have 86 boys and poise to get 24 more Webelos (10 from my youngest son's den and assuming 14 more from the remaining 35 Webelos IIs are coming over to our troop)!


Please let me know what works for your troop!


Let's start with ... Webelos join a new scout patrol and then ...


Thanks in advance!



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oh btw ... I did read through all the threads that were included as well as the ones in the search. The more I read the more I got confused. There are different camps on this subject. I guess that I can look on the bright side. If I implemented the right one, I get to stay as SM longer. If I implemented the wrong one, I get fired! Hey, that may not be a bad deal! ;)


Thanks again,



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Ask your boys to take charge of it then dump it in their laps. Will all the patrols change now? If so, who decides which boys go into which patrol -- will one patrol end up the dumping ground for the Scouts that nobody wanted in their patrol? Tell the boys that you'd like to discuss it a week or so before you discuss it -- give them time to stew on it, come up with ideas, etc. Then dump it in their lap and let them do whatever they all decide.

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Ok I admit I am a mixed age patrol advocate so I definitely say do away with NSP. ;)


Seriously though, Bart has a great idea: talk it over with the PLC and let them deal with it. Don't ever do anything a Scout can do, and deciding how the patrols will form is a definitely something scouts can do.

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The boys decide in our troop and they tend to hang together in age-based buddy groups. This means if the NSP wants to hang together for 7 years, so be it. Works for us, your mileage may vary.



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Yah OneHour, you describe a very common Boy Scouting scenario, eh? Same-age patrols, active in middle school, with high attrition and fade-out goin' into high school. This is where so many troops also get the "death bed" Eagle thing, where a fellow who has just been hanging on and not participatin' pops back up just for the crackerjack prize. They also tend to be adult-driven programs, if not adult run, just because their active middle schoolers really aren't up to the point where they can run a whole troop.


Most of the troops that use mixed-age patrols that I know either never switched in 1990 or switched to NSP and then switched back when they didn't care for it. So I'd say the most common version is the one Eagle92 describes, eh? No NSP. New boys just join an existing patrol, based on some combination of their request/friends and discussion among the PLs. When yeh get enough boys so that there's room for another patrol, the PLC and/or SM recruit a couple of upcoming leaders to be PL & APL of the new patrol, and they in turn recruit members from other patrols. If yeh shrink, usually one patrol is showin' the most damage, and the boys left in it just shift over to a different patrol that is lookin' for members.


Now, several of those troops do run a couple of "new scout campouts" designed to jump-start the new guys. So that would be like a 1-2 month NSP (but not really, since none of the new boys are becoming a "Patrol Leader" in name). That's usually run by the PLC, and the various PLs might be recruiting ;). Most have the lads join regular patrols by summer camp at the latest, so they spend camp in their permanent patrol.


I confess I haven't really seen a full-year NSP then transition to permanent patrols that I thought worked well. That seems to introduce a second disruption in routine for the boys... first transitioning to the troop, then, just as they're gettin' comfortable, transitioning again. And, as yeh anticipate, that transition can come with some angst (who gets to join the "popular" patrol, who gets picked last, etc.). So I'm an advocate that if yeh do some sort of new scout orientation/NSP at all that yeh keep it relatively short.


Others may have different views.


I will also say that for whatever reason, yeh don't tend to see troops in the "very large" category running mixed age patrols. I've always felt that very large troops are almost always adult-driven, and adult-driven programs like to maintain the same-age / class-based structure. But it might also be the reverse, eh? There may be aspects of mixed-age patrols with real older boy leadership that doesn't scale well when yeh get really big. That might be a concern for yeh, since your program is on the large size.


But I will say, if you're tryin' to address the high-school attrition/fade out thing, that mixed age patrols work very well for that. By and large the mixed age patrol troops don't experience much of that, because the culture within the troop that they grew up with is that the older HS boys are real leaders and really cool, and they all "want to be that guy". It feels like growing up, and an honor, being a PL, because that's something only cool high school guys are capable of and entrusted with. Quite different from same-age, where being a PL is something even a complete newbie 10 year old can do. And the the PLC running the troop is a cool older group of HS friends working together, not a mixed-age muddle.





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I am not a fan of dumping it in their lap because it will fail 95% of the time and you will loose at least half of the new scouts. I am a fan of sitting down with the PLC and working on this as a team. Adults seeking the help of the PLC and the PLC needing the help of the adults to make it work.


There is no one way of doing this, I have been there and done that several times, so let me throw out some thoughts to allow the others to contribute:


First, if mixed age patrols is the route you want to try, then you need to know why so you can sell it to the PLC. The PLC doesnt have the experience to try something different. Different is hard, different is a lot of work, so if you are asking for something different, they need a vision that rewards their hard work. There are plenty of us here who are big fans of mixed age patrols, so that shouldnt be hard. But you need a vision to shoot for.


If I were you, I would first start by mixing your two younger patrols let them be the catalyst to your mixed age troop program. Both groups are enthusiastic and they are young enough to change toward your vision. Ask the PLC to create five or six new patrols with the two age groups mixed with the idea that these will be the permanent patrols forever. They are the pioneers for your troops future. New Patrols names, yells, flags and so on. You will find them pretty excited about this actually. I found scouts 14 and older dont like change and its best to just let them finish their program as best they can. It kind of sounds like they are already doing that. It wouldnt hurt to let the old ones help if they want to be part of the fun, but my experience is most wont.


Now, we found that the NSPs are ready to break up after six months. My experience is if you still have new scouts after summer camp, you have them for the next few years. So we usually merge them into the regular patrols anytime after summer camp through September.


Folks are probably wondering what I looked for to know when the scouts were ready to be merged. It is growth. I found that New Boys learned all they could learn in their patrols with in six months. Since there are now experienced older guys to learn from, they had learned just about all. Once they start to get bored, they get into trouble or stop showing up.


How we mixed them was we ask the existing patrols to shop for new scouts and we ask the new scouts to watch the regular patrols to see which ones they wanted to join. If you get them doing this early, they all pretty much know what they want to do after a couple months. We also asked them to list the friends they wanted to go with them and rarely did any scout pick more than one. We didnt set any limits, but I found it to be a myth that scouts want to stick together with the whole patrol. But, we also told the new scouts that if they wanted to stay together and start their own patrol, they certainly could do that. BUT, they had to recruit at least three older scouts into their patrol and one of them older scouts had to be Patrol Leader. I know that goes against some of the boy run stuff wee talk about here, but growth comes from observing older scouts in action. If you dont have that, they dont grow. Trust me, I tried it many times.


Dont worry about patrol size, it will balance out. Dont worry about older scouts dropping out, the more older scouts, the better. Besides, you will have a different situation to deal with when older scouts want more mature activities to keep them interested. For right now, dont worry about patrol size, instead focus on boy growth.


Dont worry about rank either, worry about boy growth. Here is what I mean, if your scouts cook the same meals over and over, they arent learning knew ideas, they are doing what is easy. They need a change. Older scouts usually carry a lot of new ideas with them. New scouts watch the older scouts come up with new menus and crazy new ideas. Patrols should come to the assemblies on time, they should be able to cook, eat, and clean up in time for the activities. These are all measurements of patrol function and growth. So you can see why rank doesnt really mean anything.


If you do this right, you will have successful patrols in about a year, but it takes two years for the PLC to get in a groove of merging scouts, and three years for the troop to really function without the adults.


Also, we found the bigger the troop, the hard the change. Its a momentum thing, the bigger the force of change, the bigger the force of resistance. But, if you have a firm vision that the scouts can see, they will make it and they will have fun at the same time. In the long run, you will find mixed age patrols will grow faster in independence than the adults in letting go. Once they boys get going, the growth curve almost seems to go strait up. And that is the most rewarding experience for an adult. In about three years, you will start to see that the adults dont need to hang around, except to watch the fun. But your key is this first group that you mixed together. Your pioneers will grow up to be the most confident young men you will ever know. They will be great leaders in other activities as well. OA, School and sports. They cant help it, they are truly learning by experience.


I know that is a lot, but we humans learn the most by failures, not successes. We failed a lot before we succeeded. It was the best time of my life.


I love this scouting stuff.




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I'm not a big fan of dumping it on their laps either. Previous SM did that and nothing got done and nothing was learned. I am trying to go away from the philosophy of boy-lead=leave 'em to their own devices! I am a big fan of "if you don't train them, don't blame them." Dumping on them when they have no clues on how it suppose to run creates more chaos than anything.


Beav, you are correct. Big troop=adults have to help. One boy (SPL) and his underlings cannot handle 86 boys (about to be 100+). I expressed the concerns (and did ask for advices here as well) on how to keep the influx to a decent roar. Right now, we are 60% boy lead and 40% adult help (not leading ... we never stand in front of the boys nor do or tell them what to do ... we simply nudge them with poignant questions. I constantly help my SPL with the planning with again questions and querying.


I am at a lost of what is the right answer. Looking in back to my days in scouting, circa 1976, we had mixed-age patrols. That worked well, but as Beavah pointed it out ... it was a smaller troop and a different time! We are age-based patrol system and I don't feel the comraderie nor fraternity bond/excitement. The patrols die off after the boys age out.


I will read and reread the advices (and thank you as always) and consult with my SPL (and my fellow ASMs & PLC). Boy Lead for our troop is my vision and in my tickets for my wb beads.


I'm looking for best practice.





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The Troop I serve is in a similar situation to the OP. If left up to the boys they would probably leave well enough alone.


I am leaning towards suggesting they form a single mixed age patrol made up of volunteers from the various same age patrols. I would like to see it made up of our most consistent campers so they can get a real feel for the patrol method the way it was originally intended.


My hope is that as the other boys see how it works more will want to do the same. All I can do is open the door for them and show it how it could be. We are also forming the Old Goat Patrol for the adults and getting them out of the patrol kitchens.

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my son's troop has been NSP and they stayed that way all the way through. Biggest issue with that (and why they are changing) is when you have a year with just a few cross overs, or when 1 patrol gets 1/2 the boys less active - then you end up with just 1 boy from his patrol going on a campout and having to do all the work so they end up mixing patrols for such cases.


so the PLC has been working for a few months on redoing the patrols...


the suggestion of fully mixed patrols was nixed by the older scouts - they want to be with their friends. They don't mind helping younger scouts, but then they want to return to their patrol.


so from that they ended up with mixing HS boys into patrols based on their activity (1 patrol is mostly just around for HA and the other patrol is still very active) and then the MS boys were split into patrols.


when they have enough crossovers to make a NSP then they will have a NSP from them joining until summer elections when they will join a MS patrol... at the same time boys joining HS can decide to join a HS patrol or stay with their current patrol.


when we only have a few crossovers - they get split among the MS patrols.


this is starting with this coming elections - so far all are in favor of this change - though we have had a couple of the boys that were in the less active HS patrol that said they'd rather be with the active HS patrol and the SPL has made that change.


with these changes we are keeping the patrols sizes around 10 as well. other than camporees we rarely have a full turn out at monthly campouts, so having 10 boys means if just 1/2 show there is still enough to stay as a patrol.

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If you follow the BSA literature ...


NSP should be used. Each Scout should get a chance to be patrol leader for 30 days (not elected but rotated). Therefore, if an NSP has 8 boys, that's 8 months. Afterwards, the boys gravitate to Regular patrols.


Many ways and preferences on how to do this. Numbers play a role - you don't want patrols less than 4 Scouts or much more than 9 Scouts. Eight is the ideal. Peers - I can't emphasize enough that a patrol should be of peers - of the Scouts choosing, not the Scouters, not the PLC, not the SPL, etc. The other balance, you don't really want super dynamic patrols that constantly churn or change so traditions can be established. That's why I think some totally underestimate the importance of being active. When a Scout is not active, he really hurts his patrol and hinders its functionality.


I like many of Barry's ideas although I tend to be less positive about having older Scouts mixed with younger ones. I guess it depends on the details. If a 12 year old is in a patrol with an active 14 year old and they stay together until the older one ages out, will the younger scout ever get a chance to truly lead the patrol?(This message has been edited by acco40)

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We need to get together over a cup of coffee. I've been down this path, too. Very good advice from Beavah and Eagledad/Barry.


I especially liked the idea of phasing it in and allowing it as an option for older scouts. When I helped work the change from single-age to mixed-age patrols in a 135-member troop about 8 years ago, it was really hard on the older guys. I would say neither model is "wrong", but it is different. If the only thing you've known is a patrol full of equal peers, the mixed age patrol is very different and it seems wrong. We took a lot of time working with the senior boy leaders to help them understand the causes of the problems exactly as you described. After working through a number of leadership discussions and giving them time to get used to the idea, we moved forward. We were fortunate to have a few strong leaders step up as patrol leaders who were then able to grab control and demonstrate to the rest of the troop that it was possible and fun.


Theres too much to try and communicate in a forum.


The biggest mistake we made was not getting the Troop Committee and Parents totally in on the philosophical changes we were making in the way the troop functioned. The boys accepted the changes and adapted much quicker than the parents who were used to a huge adult-run Eagle mill where everybody was given their POR patch by the SM on schedule to make his next rank on time.


The troop I now serve has 3 permanent patrols who have been in place for 16-17 years. Most of the new guys we get from Webelos start coming to meetings before their crossover so we get to know each other and settle them into patrols within a few weeks. At their crossover, they are given our troop patch and beret by me or the SPL and their new PL gives him his new patrol patch.


Ages in our patrols range from 11 to 16-17. The older guys know their number one responsibility is to train and take care of the younger scouts. There is a small amount of grumping about having to cope with each new crop, but they also know the quicker they get the new guys running, the quicker we can get into the more adventuresome activities they prefer. They take pride in incorporating the new guys quickly enough to go take top awards at our District Camporee within 2 months of crossovers.


With 1-2 guys per age-group in a patrol, they are on-average older by the time they are selected as Patrol Leader usually Freshman or Sophomore and older still (Soph-Senior) by the time they reach senior staff (SPL/ASPL). The older leaders are ready for it and generally excited to finally be running the show, instead of learning from others good and bad examples, so they stay engaged and active all the way to HS graduation (although most wearing an ASM patch at the end). A good number of our college-age ASMs stay involved by coming on an occasional campout or summer high-adventure activity.


As usual, your mileage may vary.


Later, my friend!

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Thanks, Mike, Barry, Beav, and all. I know for one thing. Something has to change or it will(actually has) become unmanageable for the boy leaders. They have not gotten the delegation thing down. For our size, NSP and age-based patrols do not work well. We are looking at having 1 SPL and 3 mini-SPLs (aka ASPL) with each handling 2-3 patrols. The problem is that the ASPLs do not want to serve their job and we have no one else who wants to step up. The poor SPL is struggling. The PLs for the NSP patrols (as pointed out) are struggling to find themselves. I had to ask the mentoring ASMs to step in and teach as appropriate. The problem occurs when the SPL and I cannot be everywhere. That's why mixed-age patrols seem to ring a better sound for me. I will talk to our PLC and my ASMs and present the recommendation here. We will plan out what is best for the troop.


Thanks again.





ps: Mike, we do need to get together for a cup of java!

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Dealing with the same thing here. This last year we did not look like we were going to have many cross over, so as a scouts would join we would have them join an existing patrol. By the time is was all over we ended up with 13 scouts joining. We also ended up losing half of these by the end of summer (in the past we would lose only 1 or 2). I'm not sure if this was because we did not use a new scout patrol or if something else was in play. Those that have stuck around seem to like being with older scouts, and the 12-14 year-olds are enjoying it as well. The oldest scouts, not so much; but we give the "Venture" patrol a pass on taking young scouts.


This next cross over will be interesting. One Webelos den has their meetings during our troop meeting so they are already getting to know the scouts in the troop. We will likely do some sort of NSP until for April and May and then have them move to permanent patrols over the summer.


Long term I would like to see patrols where the patrol leaders have all been around for 3-4 years and are patrol leader because they are the real leader in the patrol, not because it is their turn for the 4-6 month POR requirement.

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Onehour, you just described the main problems of Aged Based Patrols. As you found out, if your new scouts are to get anything out of the program, the adults have to jump in and help to make it work. That goes against the advantages of a boy run program. I have never seen an aged based troop that didnt end up the way you described..


I think the three ASPLs is an OK short term solution, but make sure the scouts understand that in the long term, the goal is Patrol Leaders running the program. That way as the scouts start to figure it out, they can understand that change is not only OK, it is important toward improvement.


Jet526, I learned over the years a good general rule for determining whether to mix New Scouts into existing patrols or into a NSPs. We found a patrol can only take two new scouts every few months without dramatically hurting patrol dynamics. If you have more Webelos than two per patrol, the NSP is the better route.


Dont feel to bad about loosing so many new scouts, the BSA looses more scouts in the first six months of a Troop than any other age group. I said before that we found that the scouts you have after summer camp you will likely keep for several years. We went through a couple years of loosing a lot of new scouts, I know how it hurts. After trying several different styles of NSPs, we finally found one style that worked for us that consistently left us with at least 90% of new scouts the first year..


The key is good troop guides and a really good ASM. We found the best troop guides to be 15 years or older. The younger ones just never really understood how to work with the young scouts or just didnt have their heart in it. The older guys are great. If you dont have older scouts, then make sure you have a really really good ASM who can work with both the new scouts and the TGs.


For us, it was better that the TG work as the patrol leader and stay with the patrol. I know the BSA likes the new scouts to be a patrol leader, but I never saw that work out. The first six months are important to get the new scouts up to speed in a boy run program. Giving them a leadership responsibility just got more in the way. The TGs will take them to watch a couple PLC meetings so they see how things work. I have had TGs give the new scouts some leadership responsibility, but I left that up to the troop guide.


The reason new scouts quit the first year is the dramatic change of adults being responsible for their health and safety to the scouts taking care of their health and safety. Boy run individual responsibility sounds cool at first until the boys find out that the PL really is responsible to make sure they eat good food, sleep safely in a dark scary woods with the rain beating down on the tent. It is a big shift in trust. So, we train the TG to get close to the scout and the parents and explain a lot what they are doing.


We also have the ASM work close with the parents to make them feel comfortable that their son is going to do fine. BUT, the ASM does not get involved with the TGs program unless the TG ask or something comes up that the ASM needs to communicate to the TG. When the new scouts see the TG and the ASM talking, the ASM is taking of subordinate position to the TG or working as a team. Really more as a team, but the ASM never leads the TG because we are trying to get the new scouts to see that the scouts are running the program. We are trying to give them confidence that even the boys run the program, the adults may be out of site, but they are close by to help the scouts in what ever they need.


The new scouts and their parents are told that they can talk to the ASM anytime, but if the subject is something the TG can handle, they we be turned back to the TG. That includes the parents, they are encouraged to call the TG first for any question. The troop guides are used to getting calls at home from the parents and we want that so that they get used to the idea of the scouts running the program. But the main objective is to help the new scouts feel there is always a safe place to go if they feel uncomfortable about anything. The ASM is available anytime for the new scout. As the new scouts get more comfortable with the TG and program, they will see less and less of the ASM until they wont see him close by at all.


This system works pretty good for us. We stopped loosing so many scouts, mainly because we worked with the whole family and the TGs worked close with the ASMs. The ASMs and TG understand the goal of developing confidence by summer camp, so they know the plan.


One other thing, I just described how we worked with the NSP, but we do it the same if we mixed the new scouts into existing patrol instead of a NSP. The APL also becomes the new scout personal leader and they work close with an ASM for new scouts.


Oh, the ASM I used with the new scouts and Troop Guides was the adult I felt would be the next SM down the road.


I hope that isnt confusing and helps. New scouts are a challenge for all troops, I think it took us six years to find a method that we felt worked well for our program.




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