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Finally, a football field!

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OK, y'all know our troop tries to put it's best foot forward but is a bit dysfunctional regarding patrol method. One practical issue is interaction of physical and psychological distance. 300' in these parts could put adults a ravine or a ridge-top away from the boys.


Well, after a rough day of hiking in Dolly Sods, WV, we came upon an open meadow beside a small brook. After filling their water bottles, the 8 boys gravitated to the center of it and began set-up. I managed to guide our 4 adults to the far corner to pitch out tents.


This was a big step for our SM. But once we settled in, we could enjoy watching the boys frolic through the tall grass, and on occasion they would stop by and chat. I visited their camp at the end of the evening, and everything was in decent order. The SPL was pointing out constellations and the Milky Way to the boys who were still awake.


It was a truly pleasant experience.

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We had three separate experiences this summer, all of them showing promise:


- at a patrol-oriented summer camp, we had one patrol of first-time campers and one patrol of veteran campers. Because of the nature of the camp, both patrol were in the same campsite, but maybe 50 to 100 feet apart. The SM and I basically left the older patrol alone for the week, and spent more time observing the younger patrol. Staff members at the camp are sort of trained to watch patrols as well, and step in as necessary. So the SM and I mostly just observed.


- the next month, at a Canadian summer camp, we had two patrols, ad hoc, mixed ages. Here again, because of the campsite layout, they were closer together, but still separate. Since we had several adults in camp (drivers, mostly) we kept them in a separate cooking group (and we spent our energy working on our own menu changes, and cooking -- we had a blast). Very little adult interaction with the patrols. They didn't need it, and the SM would check in on them every now and then to see how things were going. The only reason why I interacted with them is that I was the primary "commissary agent", so I was doing daily food shopping, and I was getting their input on menu changes (we'd developed a menu before camp started, but modified when we saw what we could get locally). All other adults were pretty much just over in our area, sitting around.


- the next month (last month, actually), the troop had established 3 new patrols, which are now supposed to be permanent. Because of the camping location (a Scout camp, where we were crammed into one smaller campsite), we had a lot of Scouts show up, and way too many parents. Three patrols and an adult cooking group, but more or less sharing the same area for cooking. It was crowded and unpleasant. The reason why I think of it as promising is that we have youth leaders now saying "we can't do that again; we need to spread out."



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We still have a long way to go. Our boys strongly dislike separating into patrols. I pointed out to them that we were "stretching" the regulations by keeping in 12 person group in a wilderness area. (I told the two smallest boys that they counted as 1, so by weight we were just 1 over e limit.) They can expect to make individual hike plans adjusted for the age of the boys.

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All it takes is one patrol to take the long walk to independence and then the others figure it out. At first only 1 patrol of 5 was doing it, but they always snagged the best spots and seemed like it was where all the fun was (their own fire, illegal rope swings, late night poker games).



After a while a second patrol would try it. We still have 2 patrols that tend to "cluster" near the Troop "centroid" at campouts but now the Dad's want to move as far as practical as well. So Qwazse it is a culture change but it takes someone to start it and show the benefits.

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