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OneTime Runner

WHY the patrol method works

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I don't know, but I think it's the same reason why my church promotes small group Bible studies.

 

It's easy to get lost in the crowd if your group is more than 8.

 

My crew has activities that involve 4 to 40 kids. Good memories come from all of them, but I think they cherish the ones when the numbers are on the small side.

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Stosh's point is pretty important. Almost all the other (semi-) organized activities a typical boy participates in will be adult directed and led, so to the extend he needs adult direction to develop, he's getting plenty of it. Scouts - using the Patrol Method - is one of the very few, maybe only, opportunites he will have to have real responsibility for planning and execution. What is a better use of his time, another activity where he learns to follow an adult's direction, just like all the school and sports activities he's already involved in? Or one where he gets some experience figuring out the direction himself? Ask the parents, if his school assigned 20 hours a week of Math homework and no Reading, would you rather send him to a Math tutor or a Reading tutor?

 

As to *why* it works, I think a big part is that the consequences are more real to the boys. Most of the rest of their lives, the consequences are - from their POV - arbitrary rules adults impose on them for incomprehensible reasons. Mom says because he didn't clean his room he can't play XBox. The Teacher says because he didn't do his homework he gets a D. Coach says because he missed practice last week he doesn't get to play. All arbitrary rules handed down by adults. Who cares if my room's clean? Why do I have to do stupid Algebra homework, who's ever going to have to figure out 2x + 7 = 13 in real life? I'm better than half the guys on the team, why do I have to make every practice?

 

But the Patrol Method in the outdoors, consequences aren't so arbitrary. Boys finish dinner and then run off to play games instead of doing the dishes? They end up doing the dishes in the dark, and there's no light switch on the wall to make it easier. Go to bed without doing the dishes? Then in the morning when they wake up hungry, they'll need to clean them before they can eat, even though they really want some food. Can't blame anybody but themselves for those consequences. Can't say it's unfair or that the rules should be different.

 

Also, for Scout-aged boys, they're at an age where they pretty much understand their relationship with adults - in their family, in their school, church, etc. They've had years to figure that out. But they don't understand their relationship with their peers yet, and the teenage years are a big, huge - usually clumsy - effort for kids to figure that out as they prepare themselves for adulthood. It's a natural instinct for them to put a ton of effort into figuring out where their place is with their peers, and the Patrol Method gives them a positive, productive avenue for that effort. They're going to do it anyway, give them a worthwhile framework to do it in.

 

Parents who don't understand that intuitively however are probably NOT going to be convinced of it. For them, I'd fall back on Stosh's point - they get plenty of adult led instruction already. Why not give 'em one activity that's different and exercises different mental pathways.

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OK...you asked for it...

 

"Why does the Patrol Method work?" (or the Adult Led method)

 

First, you have to answer the question...

 

Does the Method work?

 

To answer that question, you have to first answer.

 

How do you measure the success of either Method (Patrol or Adult Led)? What is the metric you wish to choose?

 

The answer that it's "been around for 100 years" is in an of itself NOT a measurement that is a duration of time and a definition of a tradition.

 

So, how do we measure the success of either method? There are numerous possibilities...

 

Number of Eagle Scouts vs. Total Number of Scouts ?

 

Average Number of MB's / Scout (Normalized to the Total Number of MB's available since it varied over time)?

 

Of course you would compare these between PM vs. AL troops...

 

So...pick a metric and figure it out.

 

Added:

 

Then you can argue over at what level of the metric is "success" vs. "failure". In my current line of work, anything under ~98% is considered a failure.

(This message has been edited by Engineer61)

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Yes...there is something to be said of "Learning by Failure"...been there....done that.

 

As long as the failures to not result in a life-altering event...I have no problem with that method.

 

Failure a college Calculus course is not (generally speaking) a life-altering event.

 

Dying while on a hike (to use a recent event) is a life-altering (albeit ending) event.

 

I submit every course taken by every student in every classroom is a learn-by-doing experience...while the material is presented by an experienced instructor, each student must perform (do) and show proficiency in his/her knowledge of the material.

 

Personally, the only difference I see between Patrol Led and Adult Led is safety.

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One has to be careful of one's measuring metrics.

 

To try and sum things up with statistics is sometimes an exercise in futility. Is an Eagle scout with 50 MB's better than one with 21? Maybe, maybe not.

 

As a former minister, I can also use the example, is the billionaire church member who donates $100,000 a better Christian than a single mom with 3 kids that donates $100?

 

Is the Silver Beaver SM who did FOS for the council better than a SM who hasn't yet received the District Award of Merit because he has spent the last 30 years devoting all his time to working with his troop and has run a successful troop for hundreds of boys over the years?

 

Metrics is a management tool to define whether a task has been successful or not. However, when measuring leadership of people, statistics generally go out the window. The saavy SM who has produced 50 Eagles in his Eagle mill may be quite successful at what he does, but the SM who has inspired 15 Eagles to go on to be civic minded, honorable husbands and fathers, and maybe a somewhat successful entrepreneur to boot, might be held accountable to a whole different metric.

 

As a SM, I have no way of knowing whether or not I have inspired anyone to be a better person, strong leader, or successful parent because of what I have done in their lives.

 

Engineer61: I'm assuming that your nom-de-guerre is reflective of your occupation and respect where you are coming from. I work with engineers in my every-day life. :) However, I can't accept your conclusion that the difference between patrol-method, boy-led vs. troop-method, adult-led is summed up in safety. I seem to be swayed by the notion that the difference lies in terms of leadership. If, when all is said and done, and the dust settles: do I have a young man that can lead others vs. a young man that has enjoyed the program provided? I'll take the young man that can lead others any day!

And I have no way of measuring how that can be determined.

 

I also would find it difficult to accept the idea that a boy-led, patrol method troop is not as safe for the boys as an adult-led troop. I have an extremely boy-led program and our #1 rule for any activity is Safety First, something all my boys take very seriously!

 

Your mileage may vary,

 

Stosh(This message has been edited by jblake47)

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Maybe I didnt say this clearly, the patrol method has been around for quite awhile, in scouting for 100 years, but Leonides used it when facing the forces of Xerxes

 

And it was in use when Odysseus tried to lead his men back from the plains of Illium, yes, sadly only Odysseus made it back, but the good news is no one sued Odysseus for negligence although one would have thought his dalliance with Circe could have been grounds.

 

Boys figuring things for themselves is a good idea

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>>>>>Dying while on a hike (to use a recent event) is a life-altering (albeit ending) event.

 

...

 

Personally, the only difference I see between Patrol Led and Adult Led is safety.

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The patrol method works because (1) it gives boys real, meaningful, challenging but attainable tasks to accomplish (2) as a team (3) within a safe and healthy environment (4) without being able to exploit and manipulate adults into doing the work for them, as boys are so good at doing at home.

 

OneTimeRunner wrote: "Let's see if you agree or disagree with these statements: When the patrol method is working well, the only skill that the adult leaders should be teaching on a regular basis is leadership. or: In order to implement the Patrol Method, leadership is the ONLY skill we need to be teaching."

 

These statements assume that within the patrols, the boys have all the skills and resources they need to do the tasks that patrols do. But there are lots of patrols that don't have older boys, that don't have boys with the hands-on skills to teach other patrol members. Often the only place to get those skills is from the troop adults.

 

This is the situation that, in my view, provides the very greatest invitation/temptation for adults to take over, because it plays right to what adults think they do well and think they are in Scouting to do (teach boys how to do things); and it provides the very greatest opportunity for boys to let them (see element 4 above).

 

Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters wear two hats. One is as the Responsible Scouting Adult, monitoring safety and providing the right environment for Scouting, training boys in leadership, and implementing the Scouting Program (capital 'P'). The other role is that of Resource/Consultant, knowledgeable in the skills that Scouts need to learn in order to accomplish their tasks within their patrols (program with a small 'p'). All too often we don't distinguish between those roles, perhaps in part because as parents and Cub Scout Den Leaders, those two roles, plus one other, are merged. That third Parent/Den Leader role is Person Responsible For Making Sure Things Get Done. That third role is important for Parents, because there are so many real consequences when kids _don't_ get things done (like homework). That third role is important for Den Leaders, because there is no Cub Scout programming unless the adults provide it. But that third role really should not exist in Boy Scouting with regard to tasks that boys can do.

 

The problem comes when adults mix up the roles of Resource/Consultant and Responsible Scouting Adult with the role of Person Responsible For Making Sure Things Get Done. Boy Scouting adults need to be able to keep the program safe and operating, and need to be able to teach T-2-1 skills, adventure skills, and merit badge skills, without taking over. That is hard to learn, and biting your own tongue is painful. That is easier for Boy Scout leaders to do when you know the patrols contain the necessary skills and resources, and adults only need to sit back and focus on working with the boy leaders. But that ideal situation doesn't always exist.

 

Dan K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I do not buy the idea that adult-led programs are necessarily safer (or necessarily less safe, either). I have seen in scouting plenty of examples of adults who do not know what they're doing, or who know only enough to be truly dangerous, trade on their authority as adults to push for certain behaviors, activities, or plans that were unsafe. As clem points out, it is inherently difficult for youth to challenge adults about stuff like this, and even other adults will often hang back or behave too tentatively, rather than putting a fellow adult on the spot.

 

On the other hand, not all boys have three working brain cells to rub together to make good decisions, particularly about others' safety. Some boys appear to be blissfully ignorant of the ramifications of their actions and just don't understand how quickly, or how badly, things can spiral.

 

So not all boys are ready for the responsibility of safety.

 

One of our jobs as leaders - and when the patrol method works, we tend to see this in action - is to help the boys learn what is safe and what isn't, and to help them see the consequences of their action in ways that will cause them to develop bigger-picture thinking about safety, without having seriously traumatic "lessons" along the way. We might help the boys learn this by allowing for constructive failure in lower-risk situations. We might advise, counsel, model and (very occasionally) intervene, but we shouldn't fear small failures as learning tools. And those "teachable moments" are most likely to happen when a troop embraces the patrol method because boys get a chance to DO things and experience the results on a personal level - but within acceptable boundaries.

 

A troop that doesn't really use the patrol method will probably have more boys who haven't learned this, and who have no real opportunity to learn this, either. Those boys (and those adults) would then be ill-equipped to make good safety decisions in real situations where judgment based on experience may be needed. But note that the patrol method also isn't actually in play in these units!

 

This is hard concept to convey. I hope I haven't muddied the waters further.

 

 

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Patrol Method works because the lads are doing more.

 

If yeh have an adult-led hike, then the adult is making the decisions. When to stop. How fast to go. Who leads and who sweeps. When to turn. How to navigate. When to drink. How to support the tired scout. Out of every hour, each boy gets a few minutes of activity when the adult calls on him to answer a question or make a decision.

 

So that's a few minutes of learning an hour.

 

Patrol Method, yeh will sometimes see peers leeching off each other, with one or two boys doing the work. But it doesn't last very long. So out of that same hour, in a functioning youth-led patrol, most of the boys are participating/contributing most of the time. The younger fellows are learning, the older fellows are leading, the middle fellows are showin' the younger fellows by example and learning from the older fellows by example.

 

Each boy is not only occasionally being taught, he's spendin' a lot more of his time developing experience.

 

In the end, I think that does make Patrol Method safer than adult-run or troop method, eh? Just because yeh have so many more people around who have real knowledge and experience, and who the boys will listen to. When there's just one or two adults leading, they can lose track of some boys, or get overtaxed by a situation. Watchin' a couple of parents try to direct 30 boys is amusing, but not very productive eh? The time each boy spends usefully is small, and the amount of effort da adults have to spend thinking about 30 different boys' safety is daunting.

 

We've got a local troop and crew that does Patrol Method fairly well, even for technical things like rock climbing. Da traditional way to maintain safety for climbing (at camp, for example) is to adult-run it, but allow only one or two boys to climb at a time. That way, at any given time, da ratio of experienced instructor to climber is essentially one-to-one. Of course, that also means that there is a long line of boys waiting in line doin' not much of anything.

 

The troop I'm thinkin' of instead has patrol leaders and APL's who are all fairly experienced climbers; and middlin' boys who have done a lot of climbing, and younger boys who might be learning. So rather than have 2-3 adults supervise 2-3 climbers with 27 boys waiting around, each patrol can have their PL and APL set up a climb, their middlin' boys outfit the young fellows, and the adults walk about and check rigs rather than run about trying to set rigs. Instead of 3 adult supervisors there are 3 adult supervisors plus 8 highly experienced PL/APL supervisors plus 16 fairly experienced and alert middlin' lads all working and watching out for things. The novice climber: experienced person ratio is better than one-to-one.

 

In that setup, each boy gets to do and learn a lot more and wait around a lot less. Younger boys get to learn the basics while middlin' boys develop skills and older boys develop leadership ability... so not only are they doin' more, they're doin' things that match where they are developmentally. Where in the adult-run, troop-method or camp setup, every boy is treated like a little kid beginner.

 

That's why patrol method works, eh? Each boy gets to do a lot more and work at his appropriate developmental level. That's also how advancement is supposed to work too, eh? Leastways, when da adults don't get into it. ;)

 

Beavah

 

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Beavah's climbing example is a classic one where adult-led might, indeed, be more dangerous (canoeing is another that comes to mind for me). I have personally seen and experienced attending a camp out where climbing was the order of the day. I know for a fact that my own knot skills are (ahem) woefully lacking. I trust my son's knots a lot more than my own.

 

But on that camp out, the boys were expected to turn to, and be checked by, adults at hand to be sure they had the knots right and belaying set up properly. Truth is, half the boys there had more climbing experience than many of the adults for whom it was their first/second time. No way should some of those adults have been verifying anything after receiving 30 minutes of instruction.

 

So, why did this occur? Because they were adults! Some people believe that makes them infallible in comparison to any kids.

 

Adult-led doesn't = safer.

 

Bad youth leadership also doesn't = safer, but as Beavah said, a **properly functioning** patrol method troop should have very little bad youth leadership that rises to the level of serious safety concerns (and that's where watchful adults might be on the perimeter keeping an eye out for truly dangerous stuff). But I also think a lot of folks have never seen or experienced a troop that really utilizes the patrol method and so they have no basis upon which to build up their own faith and trust that it could actually work, if done well.

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A very good point has been made the metrics are subjective. Part of that is b/c dealing with humans is not the same as creating and testing a product: putting it through various tests, measuring PSI, temp, etc. With engineering for the most part, you build a product and put it through a bunch of tests, until you get the same results every time in the exact situation.

 

 

Problem is with humans identical situations will never occur. A situation with similarities will occur, but the expereince factor alone, i.e. having dealt with this type of situation or similar situation before, makes it different.

 

Best example I can give is the Eagle Scout astronaut on a shuttle mission who had to deal with a broken robotic arm. He stated that he could lash the arm together and complete the experiment. He used the expereince of making a trestle in pioneering to solve the problem if memory serves. It took engineers at NASA a bit of time to create the simulation, test that solution and various others, to confirm that lashing the arm would be the best method of fixing the problem.

 

Now the real test of the Patrol Method would be the PL taking his patrol out on their own with the SM's permission. if teh SM wasn't comfortable, he could nix it.

 

The problem that BSA faces in regards to the PM stems from several factors.

 

#1 you do have parents who no matter what you say or show, do not believe the Patrol Method works and that adults MUST be in charge. best example I can give is one parent, whom I believe is now a leader ( I sure hope not though) who after I explained how the Patrol Method should work, and gave examples of it working, told me that from his perspective as a PhD in education, the patrol method` cannot work because youth need to be told what to do and need adults guiding them. he used some of the same arguments you used to defend his position. No use trying to convince him otherwise, so I moseyed along.

 

I will say this though: a patrol in his troop didn't know how to build and start a fire with wood and matches. The adult judges got so frustrated that these scouts couldn't do a basic scout skill, that they broke down, showed them hot to make fizz sticks and prep the wood for a fire with the parent watching. The next patrol that had no adults watching them was able to get things going.

 

#2 the patrol method is not equally applied in every unit. Some of it is through lack of training on the topic, improper training on the topic, are the refusal to truly adopt the method as it should be. you have some folks who beleive all the patrol method is is dividing the scouts by age into small groups and having the ASMs tell them what to do. Then you have some leaders who think like the parent above, and won't let the boys work.

 

Now in reference to metrics, the old measurement success of the patrol method is not in much use as it once was for variety of reasons, and it sounds as if it will no longer be allowed by the BSA after march 2011: a patrol camping on their own with the SM's permission. Some of that is fear of failure ( my opinion is that if you don't think your scouts can handle it, YOU DO NOT LET THEM GO), and I am willing to bet that in some jurisdictions allowing minors to camp on their own without supervision would be illegal. If some jurisdictions considers tapping a Scout on the shoulder by another scout "child abuse," I can imagine what leaving the Scouts alonw would be considered.

 

 

 

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After some thought, while I would like to *believe* that Adult Led is a safer environment, it probably isn't.

 

I suspect that the Adult Leaders are no more capable in making critical decisions than the boys themselves.

 

That's probably explains why I don't sleep when my Scout is on a trip...

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If you don't sleep when your scout is on a trip, become a leader.

 

Get off the side lines, stop being the arm chair quarterback. Fill out the app, get trained and see what it is about.

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Eng.

 

I understand completely. One reason why I am involved in scouting, beside it being addictive, is because I want my oldest to be safe. I know my strengths (outdoors, programs, etc) as well as my weaknesses (paperwork and paperwork requirements). EDITED: The good leaders will know their strengths and weaknesses as well, and look for improvement and help from others. I willbe camping alot with the Webelos int he next few months as we lost our WDL, and our new WDL is not comfortable with his outdoor skills yet. I will be workign with himon that one :)

 

Here are a few suggestions to help you out,and anyone else who may have concerns.

 

#1 GET INVOLVED! become a leader, go through training and know how the program works. Even if it's only at the committee level. That's the best way. Although you do have to know when it's appropriate to pull your step sone out of an unsafe activity, say going canoeing when he doesn't meet the swimming requirement OR their is no certified lifeguard with him in his canoe, and when he is havign problems cooking his meal withthe patrol. Seen that alot.

 

#2 Get to know the leaders, and if on the CS side, other parents. that came up last nite actually as My pack, as well as CSDC, lost their primary First Aid person, our old CM. He was a paramedic or EMT instructor, so he had better KSAs than almost all of us. When asked who is going to take his place by one of the parents, I said, said my ADL as he is a paramedic or EMT. Againg knowing the leaders and parents invovled can help put fears away.

 

#3 talk to your stepson. Ask him questions. Ask him what kind a prep work has he done, i.e. weather forcast, equipment, location, etc. Big thing in my troop for trips was preparing for them. Esp. weather.

 

#4 Be active, go camping and hiking. I know you're pretty involved in sports, but some folks don't realize the athletic activity of some scouting events. It can be a great workout,a nd I usually lose weight in the summer when we are more active in the outdoors.(This message has been edited by eagle92)

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