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So many ways, which is right...

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We have a group of boys that vary from scout to eagle, about 34 in the troop.


The boys have been in patrols in the past based on age. Each cross over with enough kids formed a patrol, and they stayed together to eagle.


The problem was that there was segregation to the point that the older patrols wanted little to do with the younger patrols. There was little scout spirit with helping the younger along.


So the great idea came up to blend the patrols with rank and age disbursed throughout the patrols.


A few of the kids are very verbally and behind the scenes fighting the change still after a year. They seem to hate it. Other scouts want to excel no matter how you line them up.


I am new, but personally I do not see either way of grouping patrols as an issue, I see allowing things to become "segregated" in attitude as the problem.


Is either way right or wrong, how do you build camaraderie among the scouts and promote team efforts.


I have been told by a few parents, whose scout as become much more absent from the meetings and campouts, that the reason the scout gave was not being with their buddies any more.


We also have a problem with a few of the scouts. For one reason or another they are the scouts that need all the extra attention. One has a disability, two are very ADD or ADHD and one is like a slug on getting them to participate in any work activity.


The reason I bring this up is that it comes up over and over among the boys that want to work together, that those extra work required scouts just mentioned, seem to suck up all the adult and scout resources just to keep these scouts on track. So instead of moving forward and learning things, you spend all your time keeping the extra work required scouts from causing distractions and or chaos in the troop as a whole.


So here are my questions:


1. how do you deal with your patrols and keep kids working togeather


2. how to deal with "extra work required" scouts


3. should we let the kids go back to age based patrols and just focus on helping them build team skills between patrols.


any other thoughts would be appreciated.

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You could require the extra work required scouts to have a parent attend and be active.


One of two things will happen. Their parents will with draw them from the troop or show up and be active removing your role as babysitter.



I will not let one or two scouts ruin the experience for the group.

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As an "extra work" parent who is a Scouter I agree. Some boys, for a range of reasons, need a whole lot more "overhead". It is only fair, whenever possible, for the parent to pick up the slack somehow. I often work with the other extra-work boys--and it is always less stressful than working with my own.

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Try adding interpatrol competitions that get the patrols to pull together. Give points to winning patrols in the weekly inter-patrol competitions. Points for interpatrol competitions on campouts. Points on campouts for most creative meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Points for first patrol to set up thier patrol campsite. Points for first patrol to break camp. ( Deduct or disallow points if cookware is not cleaned properly).


Have a quarterly award and annual award for winning patrol for the quarter / year. Make the award meaningful to the boys - pizza at the COH for the winning patrol, or a special dinner for the winning patrol cooked by SM at the next campout, ...

Boys love competition. Using inter-patrol competitions in a meaningful way will start to get them to pull together. the older boys wil have to help the younger ones learn skills in order to win patrol competitions. Without competitions, and recognition that comes with winning, the boys are really just hanging out, and it is understandable that if they are just hanging out, would want to hang with the other boys their own age.

curiosity question: you state "There was little scout spirit with helping the younger along [in the old structure]." Meet with the SPL, ASPL, SM, and ASM's and discuss what the units expectations are for the scout spirit advancement requirement. sounds like the boys may be being told that they have scout spirit (i.e., the requirement is signed off), but that you have rservations that maybe they don't really, at least not to the level that is expected.




You don't say where the great idea to blend patrols came from - while that is water over the dam at this point, consider givng the PLC the challenge of determining a solution to the issue of "older patrols wanted little to do with the younger patrols". Help them see that this is a real issue, and they need to solve it. then provide guidance.



Recommend that you search old threads here, as same age vs mixed patrols has been debated frequently. Once you get past peoples personal preferences, you will find descriptions of the pros and cons of each, which you can bring up in discussions with PLC and other unit scouters.

(This message has been edited by venividi)

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I prefer mixed patrols, but you have to be prepared to throw the older boys "a bone" or two. They might need a high adventure opportunity, or a more challenging hike into camp.


Or, they may need to hang at the campfire after their patrols are tucked in. Arrange a cracker barrel. That sort of thing.


Special boys need special adults. Sometimes you'll find the right boy to take a lad with a disability under his wing. But even the "right boy" needs a break now and then.


BTW - a boy should not have to "verbally and behind the scenes" fight change. He should be comfortable enough to respectfully disagree with how things are.

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It may be that as long as they are referred to as kids and boys, that's how they'll be treated. Think of them as Scouts and give them ownership of their troop to solve its challenges and they'll take care of most anything.

I expect the patrol change idea was adult-driven. Letting the scouts group up into their own patrols should work better. I wouldn't want to participate in a group if I couldn't be with my friends, either.


A troop is a collection of patrols. The patrol is the key unit. A patrol leader is responsible for the success of his patrol, not of a new scout in a different patrol. The Troop Guides and Instructors have responsibility for training new scouts so they can succeed in their patrols. The SPL is responsible for choosing appropriate scouts to fill those roles to ensure the success of his troop.

Train the SPL, Troop Guides, and Instructors to do their jobs instead of seeing 'helping the younger along' as being everyone's job. Require real work in a position of responsibility in order for it to count towards rank advancement for scouts at First Class and above.


1. Scouts make their patrols. Patrols don't need to work together. Scouts in a patrol work together.

2. Parent involvement.

3. See #1.


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I admire your vision for an integrated troop attitude. My experience is that mixed age patrols work best for an integrated troop culture. But I will let you research ideas for your approach.


What I wanted to point out is that you have nature working against you at the moment, so you need to persevere with that approach over time. It can't happen overnight and here is a couple reasons that experienced scouters have learned:


Boys before puberty are like dry sponges absorbing just about everything they see from the mentors around them. Not lecture, but actions. And by mentors, I mean those they respect and like, which are usually older boys.


Boys after puberty are like fully soaked sponges that are no longer learning because nature, through puberty, has rewired the boy into a man ready to take on the world using only the knowledge he learned before puberty. What you have at age 14 is basically what you have the rest of their scouting career. Humans after puberty basically only learn new knowledge when it benefits their personal perspective of life, like girls.


What Im saying is older scouts rarely accept new programs changes. New scouts are required to change program cultures because they are still a dry sponge.


You already admit the problem of aged base patrols creating segregation with the scouts in the troop. That is natural because animals by nature hide in the herd they trust for their survival. So you have to develop the safe herd you want the young scout to learn on his first day and the old scout trust on his last day.


The obvious answer to reaching your vision is directing a program with a lot of activities where young scouts observe and work with scouts of all ages all the time. But the Key to a successful cultural change is total acceptance of this model before puberty. As I said, you are in most cases stuck with the scout you got after puberty, so focus on the young scout, not the old. Change comes when the young student becomes the old trusted mentor.


Whatever approaches you decide to use to shape your program, plan on a couple of years of persistence before you see a general acceptance of your vision.



Good luck




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Yeah Barry makes a pretty darn good point there...


The idea of age based patrols is really NOT a boy-led troop. You must have age integration to have any type of youth-led unit.


A couple things that might help:


1) Put the challenge to the PLC... see what solutions they come up with.


2) Mentor the older scouts with ASM's and the SM. Make the idea of being a 'trainer' to a younger scout the best thing a scout can be. Gently remind them that others taught them scout skills, so now its their turn to pay-it-forward... that's what true servant leadership is all about. If we fail to do that, we fail as scouters - period.


3) Have a few "older scouts only" activities built it with your regular troop activities. Maybe have a campout where you all camp at a base camp the first night, then on Sat morning, the older boys get to go off on a high adventure "backpacking" overnighter, while a couple older scouts and ASMs stay at base camp and cover things like Tottin Chip and lashings for the younger guys. Then on the next campout, the older scout "trainers" that stayed in base camp last time go out on the backpacking and a couple other trainers hang with the younger scouts teaching scout skills. It gives the older scouts the freedom and challenge of higher adventure, but still holds them accountable in their leadership role to mentor those coming up behind them.


The balance between letting buddies all stick together and having a good mix of ages is not a simple fix. One way to address the issue is to allow patrol re-allignments, say every 6 months. Give the PLC some guidance (i.e. we need a minimum of 2-3 scouts rank star and above, 2-3 second or first class, and 4 scout-tenderfoot per patrol). Let the SCOUTS figure out WHO goes in each patrol. Then they OWN the decision. An older scout can at least get one or two good friends in his patrol, but still live up to the challenge of mentoring the younger boys. If someone is really unahppy about the patrol assignments, remind them that its not permanent and they can change when the term expires.


I haven't been doing this too long, but in my short expirience - you get less pushback when the SCOUTS are the ones who made the choice, instead of being told how its going to be. Second, scout at about age 14, need to be reminded that being a leader is more than about getting to boss other scouts around. Its about teaching, mentorship, being a resource to those you are in charge of. That's a hard thing for a lot of adults to grasp, so its no wonder its a difficult task with teenaged boys.


It will be messy, and will not be perfect, but it will be THEIR program, not one mandated by a group of adults. A reminder that being boss does not just mean being bossy goes a long way.


The adult leaders mentor the youth leaders, so the youth leaders mentor the younger scouts.



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For exactly the problems you describe, fully mixing ages top to bottom doesn't work any better than aged-base patrols. Integrating patrols by age requires that all your older scouts are good at and ejoy working with younger kid. Clearly, that's not going to be the case. We shouldn't expect that every 17-y.o. is comfortable working with 10- and 11-y.o.s any more than we expect that of every adult.


I've always contended the way to keep boys interested in Scouting is to be with their friends. Splitting up friends and putting them in different patrols just for the sake of segregation takes away one of your best motivations for keeping guys involved.


Best practice is grouping patrols in about three or so groups -- younger, middle-aged and older scouts. Target having the PLs in the older end of the range. This keeps friends together and better accommodates the program interests, maturity levels and social needs of the scouts.


To different degrees we've always let the boys have input into the composition of patrols. Recently we went all in. The Scouts who wanted to serve as patrol leader stepped up FIRST, then went out and recruited their patrols around them. So far, it's working out very well. Four of the six patrols are functioning very well. The fifth is composed of all first and second year Scouts with a second-year PL. That patrol would work better with a couple third year guys, with one as PL. The sixth patrol is the Island of Misfit Toys. They even joked about calling the patrol the "Charlie-in-the-Box" patrol. (At least they have a sense of humor.) I suppose with a troop of our size, that's always going to be the case.



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>>For exactly the problems you describe, fully mixing ages top to bottom doesn't work any better than aged-base patrols. Integrating patrols by age requires that all your older scouts are good at and ejoy working with younger kid. Clearly, that's not going to be the case.

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I found the most "simple" solution is to let the boys pick their own patrols. Yes, they tend to pick their buddies and that is usually by age groups.


Yes, one can (by adult decree) mix them, but then break them apart for the really fun things the older boys do. That can cause problems. The patrol integrity is disrupted and jealousies abound.


I have always let the boys always pick their own patrols. That does not automatically mean that they will always pick by age preference. I had one Eagle scout become PL of the NSP. It was his choice so I had no fall-out from that.


I did, however, "segregated" the Troop Officers (SPL, ASPL, TG, QM, etc.) into their own patrol with the responsibility to assist the new scouts in younger patrols get on board. It was a personal choice to accept a position as Troop Officer and again, it was by boy's choice to do so. I had older boys that once their POR requirements were fulfilled refused any more POR's. On the other hand, if all one's buddies are in the Troop Officer patrol, it became a preference to accept the added responsibility to help out like they were doing.


Not all the older boys want to work with the younger ones. The more one forces that issue, the more resistance and feet-votes they will face.


If something goes awry with a boy choice patrol, it's their responsibility to work it out. They have no one to blame but themselves. If something goes awry with a adult chosen patrol system, then justly, the adults take the heat.


Special needs boys need special needs mentors and they don't always have to be the parent. I had one boy with ADHD that at summer camp one of the older boys volunteered to help him out, got him his meds on time, got him to his MB sessions, and made sure he was supposed to be here he needed to be. When that older boy Eagled, I was as proud of him as his dad was.


Let the boys decide what they want to do, but encourage them to stretch their comfort zones. If they say no, accept it and move on to the next boy.


I could go on for a long time with examples of positive things about boy choice systems, but I'd be hard pressed to come up with very many negative things. I have seen adult led troops where just the opposite is true.


I found as SM, I most often took the easy path of less conflict. :)



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I understand the arguement of, "Not all the older boys WANT to interact with the younger ones...."


However, there is a big different in WANT TO and SHOULD.


Sometimes as an adult leader, I don't WANT to put up with an older scout's attitude, but I do. Sometimes I don't WANT to hand hold a younger scout who should have already mastered a skill, but I do. Most of the time, I don't WANT to have a discussion with a helicopter parent about letting Johnny figure it out on his own and that failure is also a teaching method, but I do.


Why? Beacuse I am a leader.


If good citizens and LEADERS are what we are trying to make out of our scouts, then we do a HUGE disservice to the elder scouts in a unit, who for either selfish or immaturity reasons, do not WANT to lead and mentor younger scouts. IMHO, it is a critical job of adult leaders to mentor and incent these older scouts to do their duty to their unit. A good part of that duty, as a scout gets older, is to provide leadership and support to the guys behind him. This to me is one of the last and most important lessons in scouting... pay-it-forward.


Yes, its easier to let an older scout slide and in some cases the program is better for the younger scouts if they only have to take instruction from folks who really want to be doing it. However, the development of the older scout as a true leader is just as important as the development of scout skills in the 1st, 2nd year scouts.


Seen too many times that a senior scout marks time in an upper POR to check the box for their Life or Eagle rank. As Scoutmasters, we should be holding them to the standard of that POR. One of the main acheivements of a POR like SPL, ASPL, PL, or Troop Trainer is to mentor and guide those who do not yet have the skills. If the older boys refuse to do this, then they need to revisit WHY they are in the POR. If that means a delay in achieving the rank, then that is part of the learning curve.


An Eagle scout is not one who is just self sufficent and self reliant. That is the goal of the 1st class rank. Above that, the ranks of Star, Life, Eagle are really a matter of merit badges, service hours, and LEADING OTHERS. If a senior scout only does the first two, but refuses to lead... then are they really earning their upper ranks?



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