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A beginner’s guide to the patrol method

scoutcast-logo1The patrol method isn’t one way to run a troop. It’s the only way.

I’m paraphrasing Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell’s famous quote about the patrol method, but the meaning is the same.

OK, it’s important. But how does it work? For that you can count on the September 2014 ScoutCast.

This month’s guest is Mark Griffin, previously team leader of Learning Delivery for Scouting University and now an area director in the Central Region.

He describes the patrol method, explains the three different kinds of patrols, and discusses patrol meetings and patrol spirit.

Also of note is that for the first time, ScoutCast is making available its transcript. That’s great news for Scouters who are deaf or have partial hearing loss — plus for those who are at work where they can’t listen to a podcast. Find the transcript at the end of this post.

What is the patrol method?

“The patrol’s a small team of eight or so Scouts, and it’s more than organizational convenience or a Boy Scout version of the den,” Mark says. “It’s the place where boys learn skills together, take on leadership responsibilities, perhaps for the first time, and develop friendships that will last over a lifetime.”

What are the three types of patrols?

  • New Scout patrol. That might be a patrol of brand new Scouts who just moved up from a Webelos den, or it might be a group from a recruiting night that all joined together where they learn some basic skills as they join the troop.
  • Traditional patrols. These are Scouts in that middle age group that are about the same age, have some similar interests and they work together to do things and learn advancement together.
  • Older scout patrol. These are Scouts, say 14 years and older, who have been in the patrol for a while and have moved up into troop leadership positions.

How are patrol meetings different from troop meetings?

Some troops hold patrol meetings during their regular troop meetings. Others encourage patrols to meet on their own time, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon at the patrol leader’s home.

Here are some ideas Mark suggests patrols do during patrol meetings:

  • Have the patrol leader report on what happened at the latest patrol leaders’ council meeting
  • Plan upcoming outings, including food menus
  • Design patrol flag
  • Outfit and clean patrol box
  • Work on advancement requirements
  • Play a game or have fun in some way

Can patrols do activities outside of the troop, other than meet?

Yes.

“They may have their own day activities, such as a service project, or working on advancement, or merit badges, or things like that,” Mark says. “If they go overnight, they need to have adult supervision, but they can do lots of things on their own. Service projects are a great thing for patrols to do.”

What’s patrol spirit?

“Patrol spirit starts with the patrol name, which members choose and says something about them,” Mark says. Come up with “a flag, a totem, a yell, a song, whatever they want, something that makes them feel part of a team, just like a sports team.”

What does the patrol leader do?

  • Plans, organizes, conducts patrol meetings activities.
  • Represents the patrol as a member of the patrol leader’s council.
  • Keeps patrol members informed about upcoming events and deadlines.
  • Encourages patrol members to complete advancement requirements
  • Sets a good example by living up to the Scout Oath and Law

Listen to the September 2014 ScoutCast

Go here to hear even more patrol method insight from Mark. Or …

Read the September 2014 ScoutCast transcript

It’s included below:

SEPTEMBER – THE PATROL METHOD AND YOU

Music Full then under

LEE:               Greetings and salutations, everyone, it’s time for the September 2014 ScoutCast.  Now that troops are beginning a new scouting year, we thought this would be a good time to have an in depth discussion about the patrol method.

 

PAULA:          Lord Baden-Powell, the Founder of Boy Scouts, once said, “The patrol system is not one method in which scouting for boys can be carried on; it is the only method.”

 

LEE:               And it’s a lot more than just taking a group of boys and calling them a patrol.  So as soon as the music fades, we’ll find out exactly why that is.

 

Music Fades

LEE:               Mark Griffin was a team leader of Learning Delivery for Scouting University.  He recently accepted the position of Area Director for Area 5 of the Central Region.  Mark is tasked with developing training.  A big part of that involves helping leaders to understand the patrol method and how to get the most from it.  Welcome to ScoutCast, Mark.

 

MARK:            Thank you, Lee.  It’s great to be here.

 

LEE:               In a nutshell, what is the patrol method and why is it so important to scouting?

MARK:            Lee, in scouting a troop is composed of several patrols.  Boy Scouting actually happens in the context of a patrol.  The patrol’s a small team of eight or so scouts, and it’s more than organizational convenience or a Boy Scout version of the den.   It’s the place where boys learn skills together, take on leadership responsibilities, perhaps for the first time, and develop friendships that will last over a lifetime.

 

PAULA:          Mark, are there different types of patrols?

 

MARK:            There sure are, Paula. Generally there’s three kinds of patrols. In many troops, you have a new scout patrol.  That might be a patrol of brand new scouts who just moved up from a Webelos’ den, or it might be a group from a recruiting night that all joined together where they learn some basic skills as they join the troop.   Later, you have traditional patrols. These are scouts in that middle age group that are about the same age, have some similar interests and they work together to do things and learn advancement together.  The third group of patrols is the older scout patrol.  These are scouts, say 14 years and older, that have been in the patrol for a while and have moved up into troop leadership positions.

 

 

LEE:               Well, Mark, how are patrol meetings different from a troop meeting?

 

MARK:            Patrols need to meet regularly to get their work done.  Most troops set aside part of their weekly meetings for patrol breakouts and sometimes they call that Patrol Corners.  Others encourage patrols to meet outside the troop meeting either just before or after the troop meeting, or at a different time or place.  Perhaps on a Sunday afternoon at the patrol leader’s home.  But whenever or wherever a patrol meets, it should be well planned and business like just like a troop meeting.  Typically a patrol leader calls the meeting to order, the scribe collects dues, the assistant patrol leader reports on advancement, and a patrol leader reports on what happened at the latest patrol leaders’ council meeting.  The bulk of the meeting is then devoted to planning upcoming outings.  Other work can include designing a patrol flag, outfitting patrol box, or especially new scout patrols working on advancement requirements.  It’s also a good idea to save some time for fun.  That’s what scouting is all about.

 

PAULA:          But can patrols have their own activities outside the troop?

 

MARK:            Patrols can have activities outside the troop and they’re encouraged to.    They may have their own day activities, such as a service project, or working on advancement, or merit badges, or things like that.  If they go overnight, they need to have adult supervision, but they can do lots of things on their own.  Service projects are a great thing for patrols to do.

 

LEE:               I often hear the term patrol spirit.  Mark, exactly what is that?

 

MARK:            When patrols are strong, members have the same devotion their patrols that sports fans have (with) their favorite teams and when patrols are strong, the troop is strong.  Patrol spirit starts with the patrol name which members choose and says something about them; a flag, a totem, a yell, a song, whatever they want, something that makes them feel part of a team, just like a sport team. Also patrol medallions they can wear on their uniform.

 

PAULA:          Okay, now my nephew is a newly crossover scout and he is really pumped about his patrol, and I know he’s an aspiring patrol leader.  So, for his sake, as well as the sake of our listeners, tell us what is the patrol leader’s role?

 

MARK:            The patrol leader responsibilities are taking the lead in planning and organizing and conducting patrol meetings activities.  They represent the patrol as a member of the patrol leader’s council.  They keep patrol members informed about upcoming events and deadlines.  They encourage patrol members to complete advancement requirements, and they set a good example by living up to the Scout Oath and Law.  It’s a great time as a patrol leader, especially in those new scout patrols or the regular patrols to learn leadership skills by doing as opposed to reading about it in the book.

 

LEE:               Are there resources available to learn more about the philosophy of the patrol method or resources for patrol leaders?

 

MARK:            There sure are, Lee.  There’s training that we have, such as Introduction Leadership Skills for Troops, there’s the Patrol Leader Handbook, the Troop Leader Guidebook, and training such as National Youth Leadership Training that councils conduct to help patrol leaders and other leaders in the patrol learn more about how to do their job successfully.

PAULA:          So, Mark, is there anything about the patrol method that we haven’t talked about that our listeners would like to know?

 

MARK:            You said (at) the very beginning the patrol method is not a way to operate a Boy Scout troop, it’s the only way.  Baden-Powell also said, “unless the patrol method is in operation, you don’t really have a Boy Scout troop.” The key to success of scouting is a strong patrol.  The key to education and learning is small group learning and that’s important and that’s why we use the patrol method and that’s why we’ve been using it for 104 years.

Another important consideration is youth protection and the buddy system.  One of the great things about the patrol method is that you have scouts that are about the same age working together and when you’re using patrols and you have 11, 12, and 13 year-olds perhaps or 14, 15, 16 year-olds, you have scouts that are about the same age and same interests, and they probably know each other outside of scouting, and so there’s less bullying that occurs in that kind of environment.  In fact, in the buddy system, we recommend that there be no more than two years, maximum of three years difference in age between scouts in a patrol and that they self-select and they are friends, and that helps us also with the bullying situation.  So the patrol method not only is great for troop structure and working through all the needs of the troop, it’s also an important part of youth protection.

 

 

PAULA:          Excellent.  Well, the patrol method is such an important part of a troop.  So, Mark, thank you very much for coming on ScoutCast and painting a clearer picture of what it should look like.

 

MARK:            Thank you, Paula and Lee.  It’s been great to be here.

 

LEE:               We’ll be right back with timely reminders right after this sneak peak at the September CubCast.

(CubCast – Emergency Preparedness)

LEE:               ScoutCast listeners might benefit from that one as well, but for now here are the September reminders.

 

PAULA:          Your troop Open House or First Nighter should be held soon if you haven’t done so already.  And don’t forget to submit all new youth and adult applications and registration fees to the Council Service Center.  That’s right, you have to turn in the money.

 

LEE:               Remember, for every adult wanting to join scouting, Youth Protection Training is a requirement within 30 days of submitting an application.  If you can’t attend a council-led training session and your state allows it, you can take the training online.

 

PAULA:          Absolutely anyone, especially parents and potential leaders can take the online training by creating a MyScouting account.  Just go to scouting.org and click the MyScouting tab at the top of the page.

 

LEE:               With all this talk about training, this month’s Scouting Magazine talks to eight real scouters for the best ideas on how to handle your real life paid job and your full-time scouting job without making yourself crazy.  Be sure to check it out.

 

PAULA:          Also speaking of training, the September Boy’s Life is a special animals issue.  The cover story focuses on a black Labrador Retriever that was raised and trained by two scouts to become a guide dog.

Begin music under:

PAULA:        Well, as informative as this has been the music cue means the September ScoutCast has come to end.  Thanks again to our guest, Mark Griffin.

 

LEE:             Be sure to come back next month for a very enlightening discussion on Venturing Updates.

 

PAULA:        Now if there are other topics you like to hear about or just want to let us know how we’re doing, send us an email to ScoutCast@scouting.org.  or a tweet to @BSAScoutCast.  So with that, I’m Paula—

 

LEE:             And I’m Lee, asking the question: do you know what your Patrols are up too?

 

MUSIC FULL TO FINISH

 

 

 

17 Comments on A beginner’s guide to the patrol method

  1. That quote is actually from Roland Philipps in chapter 1 of his book “The Patrol System” which you can read here http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/Patrol%20System.pdf
    “It is necessary to point out at the start that the Patrol System is not one method in which Scouting for boys can be carried out, but that it is the only method.”

    What Baden Powell actually had to say on the Patrol System can be read in his book “Aids to Scoutmastership” which the Dodo Press has fortunately reproduced in a cheap form http://www.amazon.com/AIDS-Scoutmastership-Illustrated-Edition-Press/dp/1409909239

  2. “It is necessary to point out at the start that the Patrol System is not one method in which Scouting for boys can be carried out, but that it is the only method.”

    Roland Philips, The Patrol System and letters to a Patrol Leader, C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd., 1917 (With forward by Baden-Powell, Chief Scout)

    So far as anyone can tell, BP never delivered THE quote, orally nor in writing. He certainly agreed with the sentiment expressed.

    Bill, by the way, correctly attributed THE quote.

    __________________________________________________________

    The patrol is the team. The troop is the league.

  3. You’ve a fourth and very common patrol type. The Mixed Age Patrol, which is really the more Traditional Patrol. In this type of Patrol the Older Scouts teach, lead, mentor and work with the Younger Scouts and all the Scouts benefit. This type of Patrol prevents a lot ‘Class/Skill’ division between the Patrols within a troop.

    • Nahila Nakne // September 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm // Reply

      ScouterBill,

      If you read any of the pre-1989 literature, the Mixed age patrol WAS the primary patrol type. Hence I would call the Mixed Aged Patrol the “Traditional Patrol.”

  4. As a Scoutmaster for a new troop, formed exactly one year ago, with all the challenges of a new troop, we have one clear advantage in that from the beginning, even with just 7 Scouts one year ago, we have implemented the patrol methods. Many larger more established troops, seem to have lost or maybe never had the discipline to maintain the patrol method. Now that we have 20 Scouts and have divided up the troop into 3 patrols, (1 regular patrol form the original 7 Scouts and 2 new patrols) along with an elected SPL and ASPL, insisting that the youth leadership (reinforced by the Scoutmasters), use the patrol method at troop meetings and on outings is creating truly wonderful benefits for the troop and for the individual boys. Prior to our last outing, we invested into our “first draft” of patrol boxes which consisted small plastic storage bins that fit into the Scouts canoes and held their necessary cooking, water purification and other items. Each patrol planned, prepared and paddled together during our 3 days on the river. I realize that this may seem insignificant for more seasoned units, but for us, having recently grown to a size that supports multiple patrols, was awe inspiring to see how these young boys (in newly established patrol leadership positions) some only 11 years old, handled themselves and grew in ways that were made possible only through the use of patrol methods. The conversations I’ve had with the various youth leaders regarding the challenges they faced as leaders have been fantastic growth moments for the boys (and for me). I hope more well established units go back and make whatever course corrections are necessary to implement true patrol method systems — it’s one of the best ways these boys (and us) can evolve.

  5. The pinnacle scouting experience is a patrol hiking and camping independently.

    It’s a pity that competent youth rightly having this experience are doing so outside the auspices of the BSA.

  6. Robert Lewis // September 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm // Reply

    FYI…Troop 1524 was part of the East Texas Area Council (585) contingent at the 2010 BSA National Scout Jamboree. Dragon Patrol Leader: Gene Lewis, Asst Patrol Leader: Reid Fisher, Patrol Members: Hartley Coker, Charlie Cullen, Trevor Ligon, Will Arnold, Josh Fields, Henry Cooper. The Dragon Patrol flag made it to the finals of the Boy’s Life Patrol Flag Contest. It needs to be said, this was a temporary Troop with 4 or 5 Patrols, comprised of Scouts throughout the entire East TX region, all of varying age and rank.

    • That explains the spanking new canvas tarp and guy lines in the background. 😉
      That’s another good point for the patrol method: a boy who spends his first couple years working it will be prepared to jump into new patrols and contingents for jamborees, provisional camping, and high adventure bases!

      • Nahila Nakne // September 8, 2014 at 7:25 am // Reply

        Q,

        Unfortunately the reverse is true also; a boy who spends his first few years in an adult run troop not utilizing the patrol method will be a hindrance and a problem when joining NYLT, high adventure, and jambo patrols. Speaking from experience as a youth and Scouter.

  7. Yes, but it should be recalled that the early BSA troops were adult led and in considerable numbers by the church pastor (a man) as Scout Master {two words}.

    While most troops seem be work well or very well with the “Patrol Method” — though I have observed some quite noticable ADULT PUPPET-MASTER(S) BEHIND THE SCREEN claiming YOUTH LEADERSHIP and which can be seen with a little effort and time // more than just guidance and coaching — I would question the One-Size-Fits-All nature of some proponents of the “Patrol Method” as the _only_ way to have a troop.

    The “Patrol Method” can be flexible, especially for for start-up troops with only a one-age new Scout patrol(s) or the weak existing past its prime, low numbers, poor age distribution troop in survival mode.
    What is the range of alternatives?
    For units composed of special need youth?
    For residential institutional units?
    For more authoritarian nationalities or cultures?
    For “what works” for that one especially charismatic SM that is better on woodcraft than in developing leadership and democracy? “The young Scouts just love him and lean so much.” say the happy parents.
    Just thinking out loud.

    • As a parent of a pair of special needs children, I can agree that the “one size” method does not always work. Sometimes, the others in the unit or the patrol do not have the patience or training to deal with those needs.

      It can also be beneficial. Every now and then, the special needs Scout gains a supporter and defender from the “normal” scouts, which helps. You need to be in the right unit, though.

      I’m fortunate that these two I look after are not all that intense with special needs. There were siblings of other scouts that put the needs of my two to shame. I will be man enough to admit it was often beyond me, and accomodations needed to be arranged. This should be handled on an individual basis.

    • The Patrol Method is messy, chaotic, and at times CAN be considered a failure by those not involved in Boy Scouting. But it IS the only method because it allows the Scouts the ability to learn, take responsibility, fail in a safe environment, and grow. I deal with a lot of youth in my job, and I can tell who the Scouts were by their attitudes, willingness to take responsibility, and lack of parental involvement.

      And IMHO the Patrol Method is even more important today than ever as it seems as if society is treating folks as children into the mid to late 20s.

      And while there are ways to adapt the PM to your situation, BSA has tons of literature on out there on this topic and the different situations, they all eventually lead to the “one size fits all” goal of the youth running things.

    • Wishy-washy adults who cannot commit to the system have been there since day 1, the answers to them have been there since day 1.

      The range of alternatives:
      “Where a man cannot conscientiously take the line required, his one manly course is to put it straight to his Commissioner or to Headquarters, and if we cannot meet his views, ten to leave the work. He goes into it in the first place with his eyes open, and it is scarcely fair if afterwards, because he finds the details do not suit him, he complains that it is the fault of the Executive.”
      -Baden-Powell, Aids to Scoutmastership

      The answer to your supposed exceptions:
      “It is possible that having read up to this point, a Scoutmaster may be thinking to himself “I quite agree that the Patrol System is the best way in which a Troop can be organised and conducted, and am fully aware that many of the best Troops in the country are run entirely upon these lines, but in view of the exceptional circumstances in which I am placed it is quite impracticable to adopt Patrol Training in my own Troop.” One Scoutmaster puts forward the peculiarity of his boys—their exceptional fickleness or their surprising solidity—another speaks of their scattered homes and of long distances to be traversed on dark winter nights. One Scoutmaster finds that in his Troop there are peculiar difficulties with regard to the older boys, while another discovers that he is singularly situated with regard to the younger ones. One man cannot work his Troop in Patrols because he has got no Assistant Scoutmaster, and another finds it impossible because he has a wife and three children and has to work late at the office.
      The point to remember, however, is that there is no Troop, either in town or in country, which will not be all the better for working on the Chief Scout’s lines. Let it be at once admitted that there is hardly a Scoutmaster in the Brotherhood who is not an exceptional man working with extraordinary boys under unusual conditions with peculiar difficulties! That is the whole charm of it. The Movement itself is peculiar — peculiarly inspiring — and to make it a success one requires peculiarly helpful and original methods of training and organisation. Such methods are summed up under the heading — “The Patrol System.””
      -Roland Philipps, The Patrol System http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/Patrol%20System.pdf

  8. Tom Linton // April 19, 2015 at 7:26 pm // Reply

    I notice that in a 2015 statement, Mr. Brock lists only seven methods, and the Patrol method no longer appears. I would say we need a new introduction or a new spokesperson. I hope you see that this sort of behavior is not particularly helpful.

  9. I notice that the BSA on-line orientation for new Scout parents describes the Patrol Method as “one component of what we call youth-run, or youth-led, troop.”

    It would help if we had a spokesperson for B.S.A. who appreciated that the youth-led troop is one component of the Patrol Method.

    If we want to succeed, we need to supply the real “product” to youth.

  10. frances brown // September 24, 2016 at 8:25 am // Reply

    Please clarify for me the requirement of adult participation in the patrol meeting. We have a troop that has several patrols. When they have their patrol meetings are adults required to be in attendance or can they meet on their own or in a different room? This has become a topic in our council and I would like clarification.

    From what I read, the boys can work independently and even go on outings themselves so I don’t see why 2 adults would have to be in the room with them when they meet. Pls advise.
    Thanks
    Frances

  11. I notice that the BSA on-line orientation for new Scout parents still describes the Patrol Method as “one component of what we call youth-run, or youth-led, troop.” [“we”?]

    As Mark knows this is backwards – that youth leadership of the patrols and the troop that serves them is one component of the Patrol Method – I nominate him as the sole spokesperson for B.S.A. regarding the Patrol Method.

    The truly awful web description of annual program planning as adult led and dominated is gone. Now we need this misstatement fixed. There is no ‘boy-led troop method.”

    If we want to succeed, we need to supply the real “product” to youth.

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