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?

 

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