Help this Scoutmaster with a perplexing predicament on patrol organization

Sometimes the desire to support Scouting’s youth-led model clashes with the wishes of parents or your fellow Scouters.

That’s happening now in a troop in the northeast. The senior patrol leader wants to shuffle the patrols; some parents and assistant Scoutmasters are against the idea.

The Scoutmaster emailed me last week asking for advice, and he agreed to let me share the story here.

“Unfortunately, this issue is one that is causing lost sleep and a lot of hard feelings between people,” he writes. “So I am trying to resolve it soon.”

The situation

The newly elected senior patrol leader wants to reshape the way his fellow Scouts are divided into patrols. Instead of the troop’s current model with patrols organized by age, he wants to mix things up.

Under the new plan, each patrol would have a mix of younger and older Scouts.

“He feels that the younger boys would benefit from more direct interaction with the older boys,” the Scoutmaster writes. “They would learn more skills and hopefully become more friendly with the other boys as a whole.”

The Scoutmaster is inclined to let this happen. The youth-led model — where young people are allowed to try things, and even fail, in a safe environment —  is what makes Scouting so great.

“I am in favor of boys leading boys and letting them learn from any potential missteps,” he writes. “And I counseled the SPL in terms of making sure he didn’t make pairings where there were obvious issues.”

The source of concern

Some of the parents and leaders are against the SPL’s plan. They’d like the SPL to “stop trying to ruin a good thing.”

They agree that interaction between younger and older Scouts is a critical part of Scouting, but they don’t think rearranging the patrols is necessary to accomplish that.

One assistant Scoutmaster says the reorganization might take away the sense of patrol pride the boys enjoy so much. This assistant Scoutmaster asked the Scoutmaster to step in and tell the SPL that his plan isn’t permitted.

“I am trying to find a happy medium in all of this and was hoping for some advice,” the Scoutmaster writes. “I’ve read all sorts of BSA publications about how patrols should be organized and I see pros and cons for different methods. I want the boys to lead themselves and I have tried to preach this to the other Scoutmasters, but at times I feel I am talking to a brick wall.

“Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.”

What the BSA says about patrol organization

First, let’s look at the BSA’s official guidance here. “Guidance” is the operative word here, because there’s no rule. Each troop sets its own model for patrol organization.

I wrote about patrol organization last year, citing the Vol. 1 of the Troop Leader Guidebook.

Read that post to see what the Guidebook says about the advantages and disadvantages of the mixed-age approach. You’ll also hear the case for having three types of patrols: new-Scout patrols, regular patrols and older-Scout patrols.

There are three passages from the Guidebook that I’d like to highlight:

  • “In some troops, Scouts join a patrol together and stay together throughout their time in the troop.”
  • “Ideally, they have chosen to be in the same patrol.”
  • “The only time a Scout should be assigned to a patrol is when he first joins the troop.”

What’s your advice?

What would you recommend to this Scoutmaster?

Should he follow the wishes of the senior patrol leader, elected by his peers to make important decisions?

Or should he take the guidance of his parents and assistant Scoutmasters and preserve the current patrol makeup?

Please leave a comment below.


  1. The SPL has the right thought, but wrong implementation.
    His discussion about this needs to be to the PLC, not the SM. Obviously the SM should be in the room, but first, both of them need to have buy-in from the existing patrol leaders and assistant patrol leaders.

    Some patrols might not want to split up or take on new members. They’ve become tight friends. That’s okay. Other patrols might just have one scout who, for whatever reason, feels like he fits into another patrol (and that patrol agrees). That’s okay too. Sometimes these adjustments are asked for within months after a patrol forms, and guess what? That’s okay too.

    All of those conversations start with the PLC.

    The assistant scoutmasters are there to assist the SM. I’ve been one, I know. So, I would never ask the SM to step in. I could tell him how I would rather things be. But, I consider it my responsibility to enthusiastically support his vision of how he’d like to work with the boys. I would never tell an SM/SPL that he is ruining a good thing. I’ve seen all kinds of patrols, and good vs. bad performers had nothing to do with the age mix.

    Members of committee, parents, etc … stay on the side line. Support the boys. Period.

    • The SPL should get support from the PLC before making a big change in how the troop functions. The PLC members should ideally talk to their patrols and present their opinions at the PLC. Kudos to the SPL for having the courage to suggest changing the status quo.

      Our troop randomizes patrols once/year (we only have 2 patrols). We haven’t had any problems. Having more experienced boys working with fresh recruits is really helpful at meal times and when setting up/tearing down camp.

    • Q you have it exactly correct. This belongs in the PLC, with the scouts. The SPL position is not a dictatorship. It is the head of the PLC. The adults need to step back and let it work its way through the PLC, with the guidance of the SM. If the SPL can make a case for changing the troop structure that the rest of the PLC agrees with, then there you have it. The ASM’s role is to support the decisions of the SPL and SM. ASM are not policy makers. They are enablers of the PLC agenda. They should be reminded of that.

      This is the time for these scouts to take chances, experiment, and sometimes even fail, in their leadership choices and decisions. Tradition is great. But sometimes “but that is how we have always done it” is the most unhealthy thing a troop can do. Let the youth lead. They will figure it out. The Committee Chair should be backing the SM and PLC and buffering the “adults” from interfering.

    • To everyone who said this should go through the PLC – bravo! To all who said no patrol organization chart is “best” – you are right!

      To our Scoutmaster – Count your blessings! You have a young man who is committed & has a vision. Use this as an opportunity for the SPL & the whole Troop to learn about leadership, brotherhood and communication.

    • If the point of scouting is to teach them leadership then for God’s sake let them lead in a place where it’s safe to fail.

    • I think its a great idea to mix the boys up. This is my sons first year as a boy scout. The boys stayed together and advanced tohether as Cub Scouts, now its time to grow and learn more. Mixing them up gives then a chance to learn from the older boys. It can be discussed at the PLC but let the SPL lead as long as no one is getting hurt. Shakeup is good for growth

    • Q, I would like to add that for an overseas Scout Troop where most of our Boys are military kids and move every 2 to 4 years, the mixed age Patrol is actually more welcoming., but likewise – our PLC voted and our SM and SPL got our (ASMs and committed members) full support.

  2. Boys want to be in patrols with their friends and there is also the issue of age appropriate tenting. 11 year olds should not tent with 16 year olds. Has the SPL even talked with the other scouts in the troop. Just because he was elected SPL does not make him troop dictator. He might want to consult with the other boys and hear out the concerns from the parents. And if he is still committed to it, then let him, but on the condition that after one or two campouts – if everyone hates it that you will switch back.

    • Curious why you feel a 16 year old and an 11 year cannot share a tent? Why not? I have seen some real friendships, growth and leadership develop just from that. In the case of my son, at NYLT as a 12 year old he was assigned into a patrol of 16-17 year old. Initially hated it; one week later loved it and came back a changed boy; more responsible, independent, and suddenly “a leader.” NYLT had a lot to do with it, but I think his “bunkmates” did to. They demonstrated how to act, which he emulated.

    • Not sure why you would want to bring this up here, unless your SM will potentially be unit leader for two troops, and the BSA4G SPL might ask for patrol assignments in a different way than the BSA SPL, and someone (ASMs? parents? youth?) become rankled that the two programs aren’t parallel enough.
      That would be a fun problem to try and solve, but I don’t think the CSE would have any more insight on how to crack that chestnut.

  3. The key piece of information missing from this story is the age of the SPL.

    I’ve seen age-based and mixed-age patrols. In our troop we moved from age-based to mixed-age patrols. We did so primarily because we had a huge influx of younger scouts and then a few older scouts transferred in from another troop.

    My takeaway: age-based patrols have problems. Isolation can set in. Complete abandonment of younger patrols. An unhealthy view of younger scouts. Among others.

    HOWEVER – blended-age patrols are a disaster. Want to quickly alienate a 16 or 17 year old? Force them to be in a patrol with 11 year olds. Yeah. If you don’t lose the older scouts it will be a miracle.

    If you try this then a few ground rules should be in place:
    1) Make clear this is a trial. It will be evaluated at the end of the SPL’s term.
    2) Make clear WHY this is happening – give a purpose. Make clear the problem statement for attempting and what you hope to achieve.
    3) Ask the older scouts to try this for mentoring and leadership purposes. Get buy in from the older scouts. If you don’t have buy-in….you will likely lose them.

    Personally, I feel that if you are having integration issues within the troop then it’s worth trying for six months. But definitely NOT long term.

    Our troop will be moving BACK to age-based patrols shortly.

      • I was a Scout in a troop with a lot of older Scouts. Our SPL and ASPL were typically 16-17. I was that age when I was SPL. Pls were 14-15. But in most cases, I’d agree with you. Eagle, or Life and getting close to Eagle, 16-17 years old, and mature enough to handle some adult-type responsibilities, I’d usually make that Scout a JASM.

    • My sons’ troop have had the opposite problem. Same age patrols, specifically the NSP was a complete and utter disaster. Only when the PLC decided to go to traditional, mixed aged patrols, did the situation correct itself.

      And that has been my experience ever since my troop growing up was a pilot for NSPs in 1986: same age patrols are a complete failure. I’ve been in 4 units over my 35 years in Scouting, and every single time the troop uses same age patrols, it is a failure.

      • With the right guidance they can be successful. Our Troop had a NSP that earned the honor patrol award, twice, back to back.

        The only Patrol to ever earn it in the troop and it’s been existence since 1972

  4. Gotta agree with Q, this is a PLC decision, not a SPL decision (nor even a SM decision). I like the fact that the SM isn’t trying to impose his or her will on the Troop, but this definitely is a decision that should be talked through at the PLC level so the SPL and SM can understand the views of the PLs and other members of the PLC. Ultimately the SM and ASMs must support the decision of the PLC.

  5. The PLC is the forum for the SPL to gather feedback from the troop.

    Even considering the philosophy of Servant Leadership, ultimately the SPL is the elected leader of his troop.

    It is his troop to run as he sees fit within the guidelines of BSA.

    Elections have consequences. The SPL has the final say.

    If the troop doesn’t like it then they have recourse.

  6. I think that the SPL has a good idea and his reasoning makes sense. The question that needs to be asked is how would this be implemented without loosing some scouts. People are by nature resistant to change therefore everyone needs to buy in to the ideal and this can be accomplished by moving only a couple Scouts and then monitoring their progress. Once you have the trial group statistics it’s time to make a presentation to the Board, the patrol leaders them the parents & scouts. The scouts that are moved in the trial group should be asked if they will participate in the trial.

  7. I have evolved over the years from thinking patrol composition was my responsibility to the view that the Scouts form Patrols however and whenever they like, so long as nobody is left out and Patrols are not too large. Toss the whole thing to the PLC and leave the room. Come back in 20 minutes and see where they are. If a major change is afoot, recommend that they go discuss with their current Patrol members and then reconvene. Buy in is crucial.
    The Patrol Method is the absolute key to Scouting, and Scouts need to be in Patrols they choose. In the words of a past SPL, “A Patrol needs to be more than just a place to stand in line.”

  8. It’s ultimately the Scoutmaster’s responsibility to support and maintain the program of the troop (and youth leaders) he or she is there to serve–in accordance with the way Scouting is intended to be delivered and respecting established methods of the troop (assuming these are in accordance with BSA policies and guidance). In this case, it appears that only the Senior Patrol Leader is in favor of dismantling all existing patrols. The Scoutmaster’s responsibility here is to counsel the SPL on the wisdom of his intentions (including calling to mind to this Scout that he will himself be most likely returning to “patrol member” status on completion of his SPL tenure).

    At this point, the “argument” isn’t about mixed or same age patrols: It’s about the notion of dismantling existing patrols…patrols where bonds of friendship, comradeship, team spirit, and cooperation between members has already been formed. When we recognize that it’s the PATROL and not the “troop” that’s the essential “unit” of Boy Scouting, we can easily see that breaking up with existing patrols is anathema to one of the most important methods of Scouting itself. It’s akin to taking apart a car and reassembling it by putting the rear wheels-and-axles together with the ones in the front, putting the engine’s fan in the trunk and the radiator in the front seat, putting the steering wheel on the roof and the pedals in the back seat, and then expecting the car to run even better than before.
    Bottom line: Nothing good will come of this.

    As for the argument of “younger Scouts learning from older Scouts, they should already be doing this through intra-patrol competitions (in troop meetings and outings) using the skills learned via Scouting’s first four ranks, and through side-by-side patrol camping, etc. So here, in a well-run troop, there should be no need to interlace ages within patrols when side-by-side opportunities already exist. Moreover, the use of the Troop Guide position to coach brand-new elected patrol leader of new-Scout patrols provides the opportunity for “learning from older Scouts.”

    First rule of engineering: If it ain’t broke, don’t “fix” it. First rule of medicine: Do no harm. ‘Nuff sed.

    • While I agree if it aint broke, don’t fix it, what if the patrols are indeed broken? What if the patrols were an artificial creation inspired by adults who created the patrols?

      We had that problem. We had aged based patrols, and while the venture patrol had no problems, the others did, with the NSP having extreme problems. It was so bad that several new Scouts felt like quitting.

      When we gave the problem to the PLC, and asked them for a solution, they came up with one that worked. They know better than us old fogeys what works for them.

      Let the PLC come up with the solution. If they want to dismantle what they think is not working, let them.

      As William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt said, “Train em. Trust ’em. LET THEM LEAD!”

  9. A couple points. First off the SPL HAS to get buy in from the rest of the PLC. If he tries to enforce this on Scouts who don’t want to do it then it WILL fail, and probably badly. While it’s not a bad idea for youth leaders to try new things, it has to be done in such a way that the other leaders feel involved in the decision.

    If the PLC has decided they want to do this then all of the adults, SM/ASM/Cmte/Parents/etc should get out of the way and let them try to make it work.

    Around 12 years ago my Troop gave this a try. It lasted for around 7-8 years before we went back to a quasi age based model. At the time the PLC agreed with your SPL that having older PL’s would work better than an 11 year old PL in a Patrol full of 11 year olds. Unfortunately it didn’t really work out that way. The older Scouts would go off and hang together, and the younger Scouts would do the same. On campouts the patrols would all split up and everyone would tent with their friends. It even got to the point where cooking was happening with friends instead of Patrols. That was when the PLC ended it.

    These days we are more or less age based, but Scouts can move around if they want to. We have 3 patrols full of 12-13 year olds, and they switch back and forth all the time. We have a couple Scouts who are 6th graders in with 7th graders, and vice versa, plus a couple others that just went with their friends instead of boys the same age.

    I believe that the SPL has a lot of executive power, as in running the meetings and campouts, but not legislative type powers, which structure of the unit is. I equate the SPL as President, and the PLC as Congress. The President couldn’t throw DHS, HUD, & Agriculture together and shuffle them around without Congress’s approval. This is kind of the same thing.


  10. Most of you seem to be saying the same thing with different words. And, I agree. This should be a PLC decision and not just a SPL decision. Secondly, the parents have no ultimate say so in this since a Troop is boy run and led. Listen to their suggestions, yes. Adhere to parental demands, no. In fact, there should be some parent “training” providing understanding as to how a Troop works. Although, even training doesn’t solve the problem of helicopter parents.

  11. Wow. Really? I grew up in a mixed age patrol. I learned a lot from my patrol leader and assistant patrol, was well as the other scouts who were of higher rank than me. But those were the days that there was time requirements for second class and first class. So do we walk the talk or not?

  12. I agree with q and Charlie that the decision is with the PLC, I also like yada Masters concern for the age of the SPL and the idea that forcing older Scouts to be in younger Patrols may have negative consequences.
    Good discussion.
    Youth leadership is an important aspect of scouting, but what is best for an individual unit sometimes will depend on the personality of the youth, how the older ones interact with the younger, and the size of the unit.
    Troop Guide, Instructor, and JASM are all youth positions that can be used for older Scouts helping younger scouts but with different degrees of involvement in the actual patrol.
    A unit with 25 scouts may be more open to experiment than a unit of 100 (or larger) that has 25 or 30 first year scouts. But the large units will have great olderto guide the older Scouts to be leaders.

  13. Some of the parents and leaders are against the SPL’s plan. They’d like the SPL to “stop trying to ruin a good thing.”

    These words are huge and I don’t like what I hear from any side. First up is lets be clear that obviously this plan has been spread and most (hopefully all) the troop knows of the idea. If that isn’t the case it should quickly become the case.

    But in the end, the troop should be self organized. My suggestion is to open a full on troop discussion on patrol organization making it clear that all have a say in the outcome. Then if a re-organization comes (and it quite well should since it is clear the youth didn’t put the structure into place), then the scouts should have a strong voice in new patrol formation. In fact, I would likely start the process by ending the discussion with them forming groups that they want to see as patrols. Write the results down and start from there.

  14. I’m a sm I have mixed patrols. It works very well… we have spl aspl and pl meeting regularly to talk about problems or cha gong things around. When they camp they have assigned tents and tent mates age doesn’t matter it’s who’s the best fit to be together. Took 2 provisionals to summer camp first yr green bar bill and I had older scout with them and it helped them out alot. I think it had alot to do with if the older scout wants to teach younger scouts and most of my boys are eager since we’re are kinda top heavy 1st class and above. They do welcome new scouts and talk to them as if they have been there for a while with makes them feel more welcome.

  15. You’re fighting with nature when you try to break apart friendships. Boys want to be with their friends, and if you separate them, they are still going to congregate with their friends. The result is that your patrol structure completely falls apart. Don’t fight normal, age-appropriate development.

    Let the boys pick what patrol they want to be in. It’s their patrol, and their troop, anyway. If you let them hang with their friends, the patrol method is more likely to succeed.

  16. Ideally, the Patrol has been the “gang” the Scout wants to hang out with. Close in age? maybe, but it must be remembered that when it comes to keeping up on the hike, competing fairly in competitions (Camporee? Jamboree? Troop Scout Skills Practice?) the younger Scouts need the older ones for training, example and back up. 16 year old “adventure” Patrols have a distinct advantage on the “Starter” Patrols. I always found there was nothing better for Scout cohesion than a senior Scout liking theidea of being a “Big Bro” to the tenderfeet. If that makes the Eagle Patrol last beyond the 5 years Sammy Senior Scout is in the Troop, I like the idea.
    In somebody’s attic, is the handcarved Patrol Gateway we carved when I was a Scout. It had been handed down thru at least four Patrol Leaders over ten years before I took it on and then handed it on to my successor. That idea of history and (?) loyalty is lost when the Scouts are required to “SHUFFLE ” every year or two.
    Historically, the Patrols might be neighborhood based, or school class based. Does that make them “age” based? Sometimes.. A Scout’s Patrol loyalty will depend on the Patrol leader, the opportunity to “show off”, and the realization that the old timer Beaver Patrol may not last thru next year when everyone graduates, but the young stuff Green Zombies may be the up and comers.

    I say ask the Scouts. Put them in a room, lock the parents out, and let the Scouts come out in the “gangs” they want. ,

  17. It is never a good idea to let parents have input in PLC. The SPL will make some bad decisions but if they are made with the backing of the PLC they can work. The only real downside to this is that younger boys might miss out on leadership opportunities if the older boys all want them. I would love to see the breakdown of boys by age to better understand the dichotomy of this troop.

    • Parrents may “cause most of the problems”, BUT
      remember, the Scouts are children _on_loan_ from their parents.
      👪 If the parents are not happy, Johnny Scout {and soon Janey Scout} stays home or finds another activity. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

      • True, but if the parents are going to interfere with the program, they hurt ALL of the scouts in a troop, both there own and others.

        I personally would rather parents who will interfere with the program leave than affect the rest of the troop. I’ve seen well meaning adults destroy a troop.

  18. I think the SPL is very forward thinking. There are some significant benefits to the new plan.
    By moving Scouts around to different patrols, It improves skills for the younger Scouts and Scouts advance sooner. The younger Scouts are directly benefited by more one on one or two or one instruction. This creates a big brother type of relationship. It also benefits the older Scouts, as they are coaching and mentoring the younger Scouts. I understand that many of you think that it can be handled a different way, and I agree, but you can but a square peg in round hole with enough force or by modifying the hole or the peg, but why try and force it. The big brother method is something that comes very natural.
    Here’s something else to think about. An all young Scout patrol can have issues that may poison the entire patrol. I’ve seen this happen. Separating young Scouts into different patrols limits the shared bad experience and allows for the support from his older brothers to help him through the tougher times.
    I haven’t really met an older Scout that truly wants to be responsible for 6-8 younger Scouts. They typically think it’s like babysitting and it pulls that older Scout away from his friends.
    For the last 18 years, my home unit has been using this described method with great success. As a matter of fact, the SPL does some reshuffling of each patrols members after each 6 month election for SPL. Care is taken to try not to create hardships, i.e. putting Scouts in patrols that are a great distance apart, or creating a problem for parents that have two sons in the troop by putting them in different patrols, unless the parents are OK with it.
    Our loss of Scouts in the first year went way down. We’ve had 79 Eagle Scouts in those 18 years. We have between 10 and 15 young adult Eagle Scouts come with us to Summer Camp to give back to the program.
    There are endless discussion points on this topic. I think expecting older Scouts to coach and mentor younger Scouts is good thing. It’s up to everyone to give recognition to those Scouts that do it.
    Past Scoutmaster, current Asst. Scoutmaster and Cubmaster.

  19. I am an Assistant ScoutMaster for Troop 537 out of Tracy, CA. We too have a Scout led troop and a patrol system. I didn’t even think that there are Troop out there that segregate Scouts by age. I agree with SPL that it should be mix and give a deserving senior Scout a leadership position and able to mentor younger Scout within his patrol and then Troop as a whole. If a younger Scout shows initiative and have leadership potential harness that by having a senior Scout mentor. Lastly, it is Scout led why do parents get involved, are they safe? Let them lead and fail and learn. Assistant Scout Master give support and mentor ship. If the new system doesn’t work then find a way to make it work. There is nothing wrong with change, breaks the monotony of Scouting. Thank you

    Ray A
    Troop 537 Tracy, CA

  20. I would let them go for it. The next question would be, how are you going to construct the new patrols? Put all food problem scouts in the same patrol for ease on camp outs? Let them pick a friend or 2 that would be in the same patrol? How large are the patrols now and what will they be. Good luck. I would NEVER do same age patrols.

  21. This is a very interesting topic. When my son and I were exploring Troops to join after Cub Scouts, he was interested in two Troops, one with mixed aged patrols and one with age based patrols. We were leaning toward the Troop with mixed aged patrols but most other members of his Webelos Den. Why the difference? Those families who wanted the Troop with mixed age patrols had fathers who had been in Boy Scouts before where this was the common model. The families who wanted the age based patrols were families who had no previous Scouting background. Without alienating people by saying “back in my day”, but historically patrols were mixed age. In the past, to address the issue of older boys, many units, including the one I belonged, has a Leadership Corps. In my Troop, these were Scouts who already had been at least a Patrol Leader in the past and were a valuable resource. To finish the story, our family decided to go to the aged based Troop more because it was a much larger Troop (50 boys), the Scoutmaster had great character with multiple assistants, and the adult responsibilities were more spread out between families. This was a change for me but my son did not know any different.

    There are both advantages and disadvantages of each structure of patrols.

    1. Leadership
    Mixed Age – Advantage
    The Patrol Leader in a mixed age patrol is often older than age based patrols. The PLC is often comprised of more experienced Scouts. In addition, there tends to be at least one person who keeps the patrol on track.
    Disadvantage – There are fewer opportunities for leadership positions for those working on Star, Life and Eagle. Also, ideas tend to be only from older Scouts who may not take the abilities of younger Scouts in mind when planning activities.

    Age Based – Advantage
    This system give youth the opportunity to be a Patrol Leader at a younger age and rotate this position more frequently between everyone in the patrol.
    Disadvantage – When Scouts are in their first or second year, Scouts serve in a leadership position but they have not started to work on Star, Life or Eagle where they need the leadership position for requirements.

    2. Association
    Mixed Age – Advantage
    Scouts immediately are in a group with a person to look up to and can ask for advise. Personally, I found this extremely helpful when I became a freshman in high school. I had older Scouts in my patrol who would look out for me outside of Scouts as I was much smaller at the time.
    Disadvantage – It is said older boys do not want to ‘hang out’ with younger Scouts. This can be a problem if there is not a culture of mentorship already in your Troop.

    Age Based – Advantage
    This group of boys oftentimes already know each other from a Webelos Den or from class at school. Using the Situational Leadership Model, this shortens the Forming, Storming, and Norming phases.
    Disadvantage – Social norms have already been established and is it much harder to break out of current social norms within the group. In addition, it can be more difficult to assimilate a new person from outside the group.

    3. Strength of Unit
    Mixed Age – Advantage
    Patrols tend to be more balanced on ability levels. This can provide better competition both within the Troop and at events like Camporee or Summer Camp. In addition, patrols tend to not make as many mistakes because of the experience of a few.
    Disadvantage – Younger Scouts, because of their limited experience, tend to get more menial jobs on a campout.

    Age Based – Advantage
    The patrol can go on treks or activities more aligned with their ability levels. As they grow and get more capable, patrols with youth the same age, as an example, can progressively increase the distance and number of days on a hiking trip.
    Disadvantage – A bad recruiting year can hinder a unit. If in one year only one or two youth the same age enter the unit, the patrol tends to die. This perpetuates a cycle when the next group of Webelos visit the unit and see no one is close to their age. A two year age gap can be significant from a size standpoint.

    I apologize for the novel, but it is important to look at both sides of the argument. In addition, remember all other parts of Boy Scouts do not separate by age. You do not see age based structures in the Order of the Arrow, Jamboree Contingents, Summer Camp Staff, or National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT). In fact, the idea of mixed age patrols probable came from NYLT.

    I do agree this is something, with the council of the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair, should be presented as an option to the PLC to run on a trial basis until further data can be collected on their particular Troop.

    • Great points. It sounds like your council’s NYLT program has found a model that works for them, but it does vary nationally, and the current syllabus encourages age-based patrols.

  22. One of the reasons listed is he feels the younger boys would benefit from more interaction with the older boys. Isn’t that what the troop guide is for?

    • My personal experience as a Troop Guide when my troops was testing out NSPs is that the TG cannot serve as a mentor to everyone at the same time. It was better when an older Scout mentored the younger Scout on a one-on-one basis, i.e buddying up on the duty roster, teaching skills, etc. instead of having 1 older scout work with 6-10 new Scouts. And every troop I’ve been in that has used NSPs has had the same problem.

      That’s one of the advantages of traditional, mixed aged patrols, more experience around to help the new Scouts.

  23. Q, I’m not trying to start an argument, but a discussion. Your comment about the PLC making the decision doesn’t follow how the unit is designed to run. Believe it or not, Scouting isn’t a democracy, it’s more of a dictatorship. The SPL can ask for input and try to build consensus, but it’s not required. At the end of the day, it should be the SPL’s call.

    • How is it the SPL’s call to designate who is in what Patrols? This goes DIRECTLY against the design Baden Powell himself laid out. BP designed Patrols to be natural friendship groups/gangs to be formed into patrols. That a group of friends learn best together, excel best together and have fun best together. As the elected representative, the Patrol Leaders would know their gang/patrol the best and how/if members would want or maybe fit better with another group.

    • Ultimately it is up to the Scoutmaster to ensure that the troop is running a good Scouting program. That includes a stable organization that promotes teamwork, leadership, teaching, learning, and citizenship. An environment in which each new SPL is free to change the patrol structure and membership around is going to be unstable and disorganized, with a lot of unhappy people. It is the Scoutmaster’s job to coach and guide and train the SPL, and overrule him when necessary, to keep the troop program on track.

    • Colt, (I’m replying without reading more recent posts, so my apologies if someone else answered better.) I’ve not known of dictators who come up for election against serious contenders, so lets think republic …

      If the SPL institutes an unacceptable policy and the PL’s resign their position over it, is he truly senior? If an SM allows him to play “my way or the highway,” the natural leaders (likely the elected PLs, but not always) in the troop won’t countenance it. They’ll hit the road. (Same applies to crew presidents, by the way.) So, the practices that we try to inculcate into youth leaders are listening, vision-casting, and consensus building.

      I teach the ice-cream cone model of organization. Turn your average org. chart upside down. Imagine an ice-cream cone. The waffle are the troop PoRs that support the cone, down at the point is the SPL candy who basically is the main support. The ice-cream are your PLs who, on occasion, need support for the SPL and other PoRs to guide their patrols, but generally provide the real flavor to the troop. The sprinkles and nuts on top are your scouts in general. (I’ll let you decide who of your youth are sprinkles and who are nuts!)

      More importantly, if the SPL has buy-in from the duly elected PLs and APLs, he has a stronger case for realigning patrols. And that can help parents respect his decision. Furthermore, that helps patrols make successful trades. Success, of course, makes the SPL’s job easier, which might make him willing to run (and be elected) for a second term.

  24. Rude tangential point – this is not the parent’s issue AT ALL, *especially* if they are not registered leaders. This is a PLC issue for the SPL to work through. Ideally, he ought to be identifying the problem he’s attempting to solve. Did everyone fall asleep during that presentation on change in Wood Badge?

    I’ve said this multiple times: The scouts and parents are not consumers,and the troop is not a provider in search of customers. If you want a market-based model, the scouts are the raw product, the troop is the means of production, and the quality young men of character produced are the product. The CONSUMER is our country and world, After all, they are the ones who have a brand identification of scouting w/o being in it.

    Don’t be too quick to placate parents just because you have the good fortune of having an SPL with initiative.

  25. I’ve been a ASM through both of the situations. Like Bryan displayed from “the guide” there are pluses and minuses to each method. My experience has shown that the mixed patrol really helps the young guys. And this does not prevent Scouts from creating and keeping formed friendships.

  26. I’d have the SPL consult with the PLC. If the PLC votes it and the SM approves the parents really have no say in the matter. The troop is youth-led, right? I highly reccomment this system as it works for my unit.

  27. The patrol method’s intent is to give all boys as much chance to experience leadership as possible. It is not unlikely that the older boys in each patrol would be deferred to, and therefore assume leadership. The rotation of leadership becomes less likely in mixed ages. A troop guide or instructor who is older can achieve what the SPL is looking for.
    There’s been good feedback here and I think others have gotten it right: the SPL needs to go to the PLC and see what they think. If the patrols have organized themselves already, breaking them up without their input, it is possible that it might break up the troop. They may be young, but they do have good opinions and ideas. It is theirs to experiment with, not just the SPL’s, and not the SM’s.
    If they want to try it, let them go for it! It’s not the parents’ troop. It’s the boys’. This is a great place to try things out. They might be more open to the possibilities than we think!

  28. You don’t have to stir up the pot to get the same results. Make suggestion how to get the same results You could leave the boys where they are but when an event arises you can mix it up. We had a camping event with cubscouts. Let the cubbies pick a scout they were most comfortable with. Then that team went and set up the tent together. They did flag ceremony together and a flag retirement together and the boys helped the cubs do it better and they learned. While each boyscout was a leader and a teacher and each cubbies learned from a boys out they looked up to. I think both groups learned a lot that day. Oh and an eagle scout ran the campout

  29. This is a decision for the Patrol Leaders in their Council and not the SPL, the supernumerary PLC hangers-on (ASPL(s), “troop staff,” etc.), the Scoutmaster, or parents. Remove all of those non-deciders from the process and let your Patrol Leaders lead. (After all, that’s what you’ve been training and trusting them to do all along, right?)

  30. Age related Patrols are the most successful long term….and tend to create the most energy short term. We have “experimented” with other models and failed. This was buttressed by many conversations with fellow ASMs in other Troops..which all come back to the same conclusion for many reasons already outlined on this thread. Keep it simple….and keep the Patrols roughly the same age. Younger Scouts and inexperienced SPLs should be guided to the proper outcome and not allowed to experiment willy-nilly.

    • In my 35 years in Scouting as a youth and adult, I would say the exact opposite: mixed aged patrols are the most successful long term and create the most energy. In my troop growing up, 2 of the 4 patrols were the original founding patrols for the troop.

      When my troop growing up was testing NSPs before they became recommended in 1989, it was a complete and total failure. We went back to traditional, aka mixed-aged, patrols within a year. When a new troop was formed and tagged along with us, they were essentially a NSP of our troop. Again complete and total failure. They ended up merging with our troop, and went into existing patrols. In the troops I’ve been in, the NSP was either run like a Webelos den with an adult ASM in charge and a TG serving more as a den chief, which is NOT the patrol method, or was a complete and total failure.

      • Nahila, you’ve had a couple of replies stating that age-based patrols were a total failure, but you haven’t given a lot of specifics on what problems did the troop experience and how did the troop try to address them.

        One clue you gave is where you state where the NSP was run like a Webelos Patrol by an ASM with a TG acting as a den chief, sounds like the wrong approach. I wouldn’t blame the concept of an NSP for that. It sounds like the issue is an ASM acting in a role that he shouldn’t. The TG ought to be guiding the Scouts, especially the Patrol Leader. The SM or ASMs should be coaching the TG. Now maybe your TG wasn’t mature enough to guide the NSP, which can definitely be challenge. That’s why the SM should be counseling the SPL to appoint a mature, senior Scout to be TG. Our troop has two TGs that work together as a team to guide the NSP.

        • In my case, I was overwhelmed with the number of new Scouts. One person trying to work with all of the new Scouts is not possible as I have seen multiple times when NSPs have been used in multiple troops. Skills instruction is strained when one person is trying to work with all the new scouts. Frustration and arguments arise as a result. And over a year we lost the bulk of the Scouts.

          In the troops I’ve been in, they reverted back to traditional patrols.

          Only time I’ve seen a ‘successful” NSP is when an adult is involved in the process. Then it turns into Webelos 3.

  31. Patrols should be self-organized by friends, regardless of their ages. Baden Powell designed the patrol method specifically with this concrete concept as it’s foundation. Boys naturally form gangs (ie. friends), the patrol is structure placed around that group of friends. I don’t know why we’ve deviated so far from this foundational principle.

  32. When we reorganized patrols a few years ago, I printed a list with every Scout’s name and had each Scout circle four names of people they wanted in their patrol. Then I wrote every Scout’s name along the edge of circle and drew arrows indicating who each Scout wanted in their patrol (a directed graph if you will). Double-sided arrows indicated that two Scouts wanted to be in each other’s patrol. Using this method, I could visualize affinities within the troop. We used this method, plus some common sense, to group “like-minded boys” into patrols.

  33. I was Scout Master for 6 years and this same conversation happened between the adults every year, just as we were bridging new Scouts in from Webelos. There are two things to understand on this topic: First, Scouts want to be in a patrol with their friends. Any attempt to change that will probably lead to people leaving the troop. Second, with a strong Troop Guide program the younger scouts will get the exposure to older scouts that they need. Our troop assigns a Troop Guide to every first-year patrol and it is the Troop Guide’s job to help that first-year patrol successful. After the first years is over we let the Scouts reorganize their patrols but many stick with their original patrols.

    Ideally, the SPL should not be “dictating” this change but, as one previous commentor stated, he should be working it through the PLC. The members of the PLC should work the proposal back through their Patrols. Then, if the PLC decides that it should happen, then let it happen. This is what we mean when we say “youth led”.

    The non-uniformed parents should not be allowed to interfere.

  34. Simplest question is, What do the boys of the troop want? Yes, the SPL wants to do this, but what is the will of the rest of the troop? That’s where the decision should lie.

  35. We have no reason here to assume that the SPL is a dictator or that the PLC isn’t functioning properly. So assuming everything with the SPL and PLC are working then it is no one else’s call what the SCOUTS decide to do.

    There should be no conditions of timelines for review other than monthly PLC meetings where the SCOUTS can change their minds.

    My advice to the Scoutmaster is support your SPL and PLC, period.

    Tell parents to go talk to the committee chair because that’s his/her job to deal with the parents.

    The committee should NOT stay on the sidelines but should the support the SPL and PLC to make their own decisions.

  36. The SPL should explain why, I want to go to the moon, why? Is there an issue? Are there boys in a patrol that they want to move, are boys in a patrol wanting to move? Just to do it can be disruptive, to push an undesired scout out is wrong, but to provide a learning environment, motivate older scouts, and expand them sounds like a good plan. Why is the key, and the PLC is the key to the patrols. I’d do a quick SM conf with each PL and see whats up.

  37. Ultimately the boys should call the shots. It’s their Troop. Vote on it. For the longest time, we had patrols that were mixed. To me it’s not a great idea to do it by age – that’s not what a patrol is all about. The older boys are there to lead, and the cycle repeats itself. This is how young boys grow to young men. Green Bar Bill and his old friend BP had this down to a science. But someone keeps re-inventing the wheel. This isn’t youth sports, this is Scouting. No need to separate age groups. Help them learn, foster teamwork.
    This SPL is right on track, but has to let the PLC vote.

  38. My Troop has experienced the same complications as stated above. We have 4 Patrols, one of which is for New Scouts. The New Scout Patrol elects a Patrol Leader who is encouraged to attend Patrol Leader Council (PLC) Meetings and lead his Patrol. My Scoutmaster appointed an older, more experienced Scout to be a Troop Guide. The Troop Guide would help the Scouts in the New Scout Patrol to work together on Scout through First Class Requirements. After these scouts have completed First Year Camper/Eagles Journey/First Class Adventure at Resident Camp or was in the “New Scout Patrol” for a year, they were mixed into different Patrols; this way they had a good concept of how the Patrol Method worked, how Resident Camp works, and they had the Scout through First Class Ranks completed. Also; the SPL shouldn’t be able to decide on his own how the Troop should be organized,rather the PLC and Troop Committee should review the SPL’s proposed organization, and make changes as necessary. My Troop’s Troop Meeting consists of having an Opening and Game which are done as a Troop, as well as an Edge Method and Interpatrol Activities which are done within Patrols.

    • The troop committee has no place reviewing how the Scouts decide to operate or what they do as long as there are no safety issues and are not violating BSA.

      The committee’s job is to support the youth, regulate adults, deal with parents and finances.

  39. A compromise could be made here. Assign a Patrol Guide to EACH new scout patrol, and embed him within it, as a mentor to the PL, and to “even things out” a bit. Have the Senior Patrol leader help pick which scouts will get this job.

  40. As a Scoutmaster of a troop that has been around for over 25 years we have had our ups and downs with numbers and it can be hard when you drop so low that you are essentially one patrol size but spread in ranks from scout to Eagle. It is a good idea to mix things up as long as the voting body of the PLC is involved with the decision. Our troop is 95% boy led with very little decision made by myself or my assistant Scoutmasters. Our focus is that they work together using their older boys as Troop/ Patrol guides as well as having them use the Edge method at every session going both ways. This works best when you have a smaller group of no more than 25-35 scouts…the main enforcement for me is to remind the parents that our troop is led by the boys with our guidance in safety and overall objectives are being planned properly so they can meet all of thier goals. We have been successful in producing 1-2 Eagle Scouts every year.

  41. I agree with Q. This is a matter for the PLC and SPL to work out. It’s also an opportunity for the SM to do what SM’s should do most – provide the SPL and PLC with various perspectives (some of which others have provided above), so the scout leadership can make an informed decision on their own.

    In our troop we’ve always had age mixed patrols with several layers of older scouts of varying ages leading and teaching the scouts in their patrol. We try to keep scouts in the same patrol who join/crossover together but may need to divide that group the best we can in “buddy groups” into each Patrol (we have three patrols). Also, after every summer camp the PLC reexamines the troop/patrol composition and decides on any movement that may improve the troop/patrol function (and leadership opportunities). We haven’t seen any impact on Patrol pride. In fact, it has given our scouts the opportunity to work through the process of building and rebuilding their teams — just like we teach in our leadership course and how they will often experience in life.

  42. Our troop has approximately 60 boys. There are 5 patrols. Each patrol is a distribution of the boys in their first 3 years of scouting. The older boys are the PL and APL. When a scout has served as PL or is over 15, they are moved to the staff and given specific troop related jobs (QM, Librarian, Scribe, QM of Grounds, OA Liaison. These boys are “Senior” scouts and on staff.
    Our patrols are rebalanced almost every year by shuffling boys to solve issues, have a good mix of ages and promote leadership. This shuffling is done by the SM and SPL at th beginning of the Scout Year. Our troop has a yearly interpatrol competition that is bot an accumulation of points for activities and advancement over the whole year and a full field competition on the troops birthday.
    Even though the patrols are shuffled every year (like many military units) the boys compete for their patrol they are in at that time. They become friends with all the boys in the troop and understand that its the troop thats the family not just each patrol. Its accepted and usually not questioned by boys or parents.

    I can t imagine having patrols die when the boys all age out.

    • Where did “staff” come from? I can’t find that in any of the literature.

      Did the Scouts make all these rules and limitations? Who is moving then and giving them “staff” positions?

      • If memory serves, the term “staff” was used to describe members of the old Leadership Corps patrol from 1972 – 1989. This was the patrol of those Scouts in such roles as QM, Scribe, Instructor, etc. ASPL in my case was also the PL of this patrol.

        Usually once you got into the LC. you stayed there.

  43. In my Pack, we are a team.
    I could Not imagine our Cub Master making such a big move without the support of leaders & parent support.
    On other hand you can always recharter and go somewhere else if you don’t like that pack.
    Scouting should be fun! Not stressful 😊

    • Biggest difference between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts is this; in Cub Scouts, adults are in charge and make the decisions, while in Boy Scouts the Scouts are the leaders and make the decisions. Adults are there to support, mentor, and ensure safety, not dictate to the Scouts what they can or cannot do.

  44. Both the Troop I grew up in (in the 60s) and the one I’ve been associated with since my son crossed over in 2000 (yes, he’s long out but I’m still around) used mixed-age Patrols. Back in the “Dark Ages,” there was no other way to do things because Webelos crossed over when they turned 11, not all as a Den. These days, it’s a choice but I feel strongly that providing leadership and mentoring WITHIN each Patrol is the better system.

    That said, we do bring the crossover Webelos (we get Webelos from about 6 different Packs and don’t have a “feeder” pack of our own) into one or two New Scout Patrols for their first couple of months. Each NSP is under the guidance of a Troop Guide who mentors them through their Scout, Tenderfoot and some of the 2nd and 1st Class requirements. Then, before summer camp, they are split out into the regular Patrols. Frequently, buddies from a given Pack will choose to go into the same Patrol and that’s fine.

    We have, from time to time, had an “Older Scout Patrol” where the 15-17-year-olds can have a bit more latitude, but that is VERY dependent on the personalities involved and it has been up to the cadre of older Scouts to decide if/when they want to (re)organize the OSP. We also have a Venturing Crew and a number of our older Scouts are dual-registered in the Troop and Crew.

    In the situation that started this thread, it is up to the voting members of the PLC to discuss and hopefully reach a consensus. This is a situation where I would guide the SPL to NOT make a change unless he could reach a consensus. (i.e. avoid putting it to a divisive vote)

    Having mixed-age Patrols does two important things…first, for the middle-years Scouts, it gives them the opportunity to practice leadership. Second, for the younger Scouts, it puts their mentors in daily contact. As others have mentioned, it also evens the playing field for inter-Patrol competitions.

  45. Keeping kids around the same age together is a good thing. I wouldn’t have wanted my 10 year old with 16-18 year olds bc of the difference in their ages & interests. Mainly girls. Nor do I think my 17 year old Scout would enjoy spending a lot of time with 10-12 year olds.
    The boys enjoy group time together. It works for all of them.

    • I think you are making the argument in extreme. The way I’ve seen this typically pan out is in a bell curve of patrols with a 3 year age span: 17-15 year-olds, 15-13 year-olds, 13-11 year-olds. Sometimes there’s a 4 year age span. In patrols with wider age spans, the older scouts aren’t PL’s as they often take on more responsibilities outside their patrol.

      The nice thing, in retrospect, that I found about being in a mixed-age patrol: older scouts would often call the younger scouts to account for immature behavior (especially when it came to talk about the opposite sex). I especially remember older scouts in my patrol talking to non-scouts about girlfriends, and the way the older scouts treated their relationships with dignity made a striking impression.

      So, your mileage may vary. But it’s not all doom and gloom having to camp in vicinity of a guy 5 years your elder!

  46. I think there is another aspect to this issue: What is a “patrol” in the first place? Is it just a temporary, convenient subdivision of the troop? Or is it something that Scouts _join_ — something with its own identity and even its own traditions? The purpose of the patrol, as I understand it, is to be the fundamental building block of Boy Scouting. It is the place where Scouts learn and practice teamwork and citizenship and something we used to call “patrol spirit.” For that to work, the patrol has to be something more than just a group of Scouts that are put together by whim or convenience or educational theory.

    Having patrols with those “institutional” qualities does not dictate either same-age or mixed-age membership. Those are meaningless classifications for such patrols. And the patrols don’t have to be ancient patrols heavy with tradition — a new patrol can have those qualities as long as its members understand that they are building something larger than themselves. Having patrols of that kind changes the criteria that Scouts use to _sort themselves_ into patrols. Instead of just picking buddies, they will be identifying themselves with the name, goals, and reputation of an institution that belongs solely to them. With this kind of patrol, you don’t start with Scouts and then divide them into patrols. You start with patrols and let Scouts decide which one they want to be part of.

    So I guess my advice would be that the SPL, SM, ASMs, parents, and Scouts are looking at this the wrong way entirely. The question isn’t whether they should have same-age patrols or mixed-age patrols. The question is whether they should have patrols that mean something, or patrols that don’t mean much at all.

    • Our council used to have a summer camp where they had a Patrol of the Week competition. Patrols were given points for everything from camp inspection, total patrol participation in an event like Polar Bear Swim, etc., Patrol Spirit, and the final Camp-Wide Games. At the end of the week, the winning Patrol received a hand-made award to take back to their unit and their Patrol name was placed on a similar award with all of the other weeks winners displayed in the Dining Hall for all to see. Over the course of several decades, boys could see all of the Patrols who had won in the past. Once again this was a Patrol Award and not a Troop Award. It was sense of pride to have your Patrol displayed for posterity. I do not see this type of award at camps very often anymore.

  47. I am a former SM. I am also on the BSA Adult Leader Training Team for our Council. This question comes up frequently ..Last I heard Scouting is to a boy led troop–The decision rests with the PLC. Each PL should pole the members of his patrol, and bring those results to the PLC…The SPL may find he is on an island with his idea…If the PLC does move forward with re-alignment some care needs to be taken to insure the scouts are comfortable with type of change. I have seen it work quite well. I know of a troop in our district that juggle up the patrols every year. It works for them— The Scoutmaster Staff needs to monitor the new patrol make up to insure scout safety—Youth Protection includes not only physical safety but mental as well– ie hazing..bulling….It will become clear quite quickly if it works or not–

  48. Try it for six months (i.e., till the next troop election). If it doesn’t work out, revert to the original plan then.

    Also, I’ve been a part of four or five different troops and the best compromise between the two plans of organization I can think of was where we had patrols organized by rank, with an older “guide” assigned to each “younger” patrol. That seemed to provide the best balance between grouping by age and interaction with the older Scouts. When you reorganize patrols every election (or whenever y’all do), assign a new guide.

    Just my two cents. 🙂

    • Need longer than 6 months. At least a year, preferably 18-24 months. 6 months gets them time to sorrt things out and get them working.

  49. This conversation does need to live with the PLC. The Scout master guidance should be on support for implementing and assessing the change. How will the PLC determined if the change is better? What is the criteria for determining if course correction is needed or if the troop needs to go back to the age based patrols? How long will they try it before making a call.
    If the PLC agrees to try it and has a plan in place then leaders and parents need to get out of the way.

  50. We had the patrols set up in a similar fashion. Age groups but each patrol had a more senior scout as an advisor. For example, Patrol A is the youngest, Patrol C is oldest. A scout from patrol B would advise patrol A, a scout from patrol C would advise patrol B and another would help oversee A. It helped a lot of scouts work up to being a better leader with an increasing amount of responsibility

  51. It needs to be discussed at the PLC. That implies that the patrol leaders have spoken to their respective patrols and understand how their members feel about this. Second is there a way to solve the SPL’s issue other than reorganizing the patrols. Perhaps better use of Troop Guide position or instructor position or mixing up patrol completions to be teaming up older scouts with younger scouts and compete against each other.

  52. This is a Teaching opportunity and problem solving for whole Troop. Here are my observations based on my experience with this idea while Scoutmaster and reinforced during the many Wood Badge staff experiences to include the honor of serving as Course Director:

    1. We discussed with the SPL and the PLC the benefits and the limitations on advancement opportunities for the younger Scouts. In a mixed Patrol how long would it take for a younger Scout to be elected to and learn the success and failures from a Patrol leadership position?

    2. What is the impact to the role of Troop Guide? Like Den Chief, this is Troop leadership position is an excellent opportunity for an experienced Scout to learn mentoring and how to coach the newest members how to be successful as a Patrol during meetings and Camp outs. We had an application process to develop and train Troop guides who were engaged and mature role models.

    3. Last we felt the mixed Patrol might present and impact age appropriate challenges.

    After discussion, the SPL & PLC decided to remain in age specific Patrols.

  53. We’ve had mixed age patrols for years and it has been great. The one time we had a problem was when the adults interfered in the patrol reshuffle. The youth leaders know a lot more about the Scouts than we do.

  54. Has the new SPL done NYLT? (Or perhaps the SM done Wood badge?)

    Use the tools out there already –
    After every meeting, during monthly PLC’s, do a SSC (Start, Stop, continue) (kind of like plus, minus, delta).

    Expect the change to be a process: Storming, forming, norming, performing.

    Use your EAR for problems (Express, address, resolve)

    Use the tools from Eagle scout projects – create a project plan, get feedback, plan for contingencies.

    Keep the parents out – if the boys have issues, they should bring it up within themselves, and the SM should work with the SPL to make sure all issues are addressed. (Our troop has ASM’s assigned to guide individual patrols if asked) I have found that when the boys are in on the plan and make it their own, the will usually surprise you and step up to the challenge – older boys will be willing to spread out and help the various patrols grow, the others will be willing to be friendly and helpful to their fellow scouts.

    Friendships can and do express themselves outside of just single patrols – try more inter-patrol activities.

    I would guess if the boys don’t care about the boys in the other patrols, there’s a problem that perhaps the SPL in this case wants to address.

  55. In this situation keeping the youth in the patrols based on age range would more than likely work best. In place of the intermingling the SPL may hope for the troop can have events such as leadership training designed by the troop for the troop to mix the groups and promote friendship and teamwork.

    The issue with the age mix is the maturity difference between a 10 year old and a 17 year old with one group still being a child and the other is much farther down the line of puberty.

    In the case of Venturing Crews and even Sea Scout Ships the groups are still broken up but the focus is on ypt interests between male and female youth (just as these scouts may face in 2019 with the new female parallel scout program). in crew and ships it is significantly more youth led and would be a better environment for this sort of thing where the youth are a bit more matured (though still developing) at 14-20.

    often the older members have their own group in a unit large enough for multiple crews but venturing and sea scouting are much more minimal in numbers due to the vessel needs for sea scouts and the venturing program still gaining traction due to being relatively new as compared to other programs.

    There are exceptions of course but the older members should be encouraged to develop events for entire troop to bond over. Perhaps even set older and younger scouts into groups during this event to become familiar with eachother specifically rather than lose one another passing from group to group based on the activity.

  56. This is how I organised my Cub Pack Sixes – a mix of age groups so that there was the mix of knowledge and skills. The social interaction was also quite important.
    When I was in Scouts this was also how the patrol system was organised.
    However, this sounds like something that may need to be phased in. As opposed to a big sudden upheaval. A suggestion may be, to take the existing patrols and as new members join assign them to the patrols to gain a variance in age groups.

    This will then flow on as troop members leave or move onto the higher section.

  57. Some great comments, but none organize patrols the way we do. We have over 60 Scouts with 6 patrols. 4 are regular patrols that are mixed age based from crossover to the start of the freshman year.

    We have Scouts from several packs (about 10-12 each year) so if possible all the crossovers from the same pack go into the same patrol (or 2 patrols). This means these patrols are age 14 & under. If we have losses from attrition from one of the regular patrols, the next year the new Scouts are placed to even them out to be around 8 Scouts (plus or minus 1). Sometimes, we have moved 3rd year Scouts to another patrol because of a lack of 3rd years in that patrol, but the Scoutmaster talks with the Scouts first about the move & why it needs to be done.

    We have 2 Venture Patrols, one for those under 16 and the other for those 16-18 that we call Powderhorn. When there are 3 or less from the Venture Patrol on a campout, they are assigned to one of the other patrols for meals. If 4 or more go, they cook just like the regular patrols. This means that the older Scouts set up their patrol tents slightly apart from the younger Scouts so we never have a 17-year old tenting with an 11-year old.

    The system seems to work and allows 2nd & 3rd year Scouts to teach the 1st year scouts. Age-based patrols always make me think of the blind leading the blind for the first couple of years. Even with a Troop Guide or an Assistant Scoutmaster “advisor” the Patrol Leader for the first couple of years really does not know what they are doing. The PL is either left to fail or the TG or ASM becomes the de facto PL because of how much “advising” they need to do. It takes a really good TG/ASM to use the Socratic method of teaching or Guided Study methodology instead of just telling the 1st/2nd year PL in age-based patrols what they should be doing.

    Each troop needs to decide what is best for them, but the PLC should make the final decision. It should not be dictated by the Scoutmaster or SPL.

  58. Guidance is the operative word here. The SM can counsel the SPL on how to work change through the PLC. He can also discuss the pros and cons of both types of patrol organization and how to incorporate more interaction and learning from older scouts without changing the patrols.

    Parents need to back off and work through the committee chair. Parents are a huge problem in scouting. They want to run the show and never let these kids learn leadership skills. I have seen very few kids in scouts that actually ever develop leadership skills because their parents do everything for them but press on their chests to get the air in and out.

  59. Read thru the entries.
    NSPs seem to be good for “ADVANCEMENT” . Classes, instruction, built in control, Scouts gain FC in a year, more Eagles per Troop (when did that become a goal of BSA again?) . ASM assigned, TG assigned, coaching the nascent PL, SPL bows to the SM’s and TCommittee’s direction. If they last thru the Scout’s career, the Patrol “dies” in four or five years. NSP are, by definition, defined by the Adults, not the Scouts. Might be neighborhood/school/friend arranged, might not. Gangs to hang with, accomplish things with, be proud of ? Maybe. Tradition, history? Not yet. Got to make their own.

    So called “traditional” , Mixed Age Patrol, are messier. Usually have a history, some tradition to hand down. Made up by the boys? Maybe. Assigned by the adults? Maybe. Older Scouts lead the younger, by necessity. Skills passed down by example and instruction. “Here’s how we cook” , not “Here’s how YOU cook” “. Classes? When needed, multi Scout, across Patrols. Gain FC when you are ready. Not forced? Big Brother is sought. Director of Activities is not needed, if ever. Advancement is desired by the Scout, not required. (Advancement to FC should almost be automatic, given the right activities/hikes/camping trips). SM reminds, coaches, does not need to DIRECT. “Go ask your Patrol Leader” has meaning. Parents provide transportation, support, (when necessary, rescue) not prop up .

    Ever see a mom step in to cook for the Patrol? I have. Not pretty.

  60. I have a large Troop that has consistently had over 100 Scouts. When the concept of the new Scout Patrol came out in, I believe the late 1980’s, we put the concept on the chalk board and asked a groups of Scouts of all ages and all ranks what they thought. They did not like the concept. We have consistently had Patrols of all ages. We let each Scout decide which Patrol they wish to be in. If it doesn’t work well, we let them select another Patrol. Obviously, we don’t want constant change. In the mixed-age Patrol, the older Scouts are getting the opportunity to lead, while, at the same time, training the new Scouts to take over in a few years. We do run our own 5-day Leadership and Scout Skills Camp, and require our PL’s and APL’s to attend this to give them the leadership skills they need. I believe that virtually no new Scout is ready to lead, and this vacuum requires an adult to really be running the Patrol. Originally, I split up brothers, but I learned this was a mistake and let the brothers decide whether they wish to be together or separate. Something I had not noticed but a number of years ago a female leader from another Troop came up to me at a camporee and related, “When I see your Troop, the groups together have boys of all ages. In every other Troop, the groups are separated by age. I can’t tell if the SPL wants to assign the Scouts to Patrols. I don’t think this is wise. They need to pick where they want to go.

  61. The SPL has a great idea and should be allowed to follow through with the continued support of his Scoutmaster and the full support of those adults that wanted to discourage the experiment, which is what I shall call it. Our Troop’s SPL suggested the same a few years back; today our patrols are a combination of older and younger Scouts which allows the older Scouts to serve in positions of responsibilities as trainers, assistant patrol leaders, quartermaster, scribe, and librarian for their patrol and/or us the opportunity to complete requirements needed for their advancement while helping, instructing, and mentoring their younger counterparts. When it comes to summer camp, the patrols pair up using one veteran Scout with a new crossover or another first-year camper, allowing the mentoring of how to keep their tent neat, how to complete camp chores, where to go to program areas. The mixing of the patrols with younger and older Scouts works well. It has been a success in our Troop. It may not work in every unit, but the SPL should be allowed to try. He was elected, he has the backing of his SM, the operation of the troop and patrol structure is up to the SPL and the Patrol Leaders Council and not the Troop Committee, if not mistaken. The Troop Committee and ASMs & Parents should support the decision.
    Just my opinion though. Good luck, no matter what decision is made, and for the Senior Patrol Leader, even if they shoot you down and do not allow this change up, just remember only the brave try something new.

  62. Sorry if this rubs people the wrong way, but this is NON NEGOTIABLE. Scouting isn’t YOUR program… its’ a franchise. You PAY for the right to run THE National BSA program in your charter organization. As a franchise (Charter) you are duty bound to obey the rules AS DESIGNED…. which means patrols are grouped by AGE, INTEREST, and ABILITIES.

    You do not get to change the “patrol method”, any more than you get to decide to join the “Blue Jean Brigade”, any more than you get to rewrite advancement or MB requirements, etc.

    Shaking my head at the people who think this is open for “discussion”.

    • I’m fine with rules. But we should make a distinction between rules and recommendations.

      The Troop Leader Guidebook doesn’t ban traditional mixed-age patrols, but it does recommend three types of patrols.

      The first type are crossovers for their first year in the troop. (Note that this group will already be a span of ages 10 through 11.) The second group are “Members of a regular or traditional patrol have similar interests and abilities.” And the third group, older-scout patrols, which has no definite age boundary but rather these scouts “often have a been-there-done-that attitude” (whatever that means). Anyway, lets assume we’re talking about 16-17 year-olds in that older scout patrol.
      That leaves regular patrols of boys in the age range of 12-15.

      Shorten the time in the new scout patrol to 6 months, and guess what this begins to look like? Your traditional troop with mixed-age patrols and a leadership corps. Because, if you retain all your boys until 17, one of those 17 is gonna never suffer “been-there-done-that” and will want to be with the regulars or mentor the 1st years, one crossover will nailed first class skills at age 10 and be bored to tears if he isn’t moved up to a regular patrol ASAP, and one of your 13 year olds will get his Eagle and want to join the older boys on their prep-treks for Philmont. The good news is the Guidebook gives you leeway to shuffle these unique boys (if there are PL’s who will take them). The bad news? Gray areas are hard for kids to grasp, so everyone has to tread carefully.

      Is this what the concerned SPL is facing here? We don’t know. He sounds concerned about mentoring. But without knowing if he’s talked to his PLC, we don’t know if it’s just him, or all the PLs/APLs.

    • You do realize that from 1910 to 1989, mixed aged patrols were the norm?`August 1, 1989 was when “Operation First Class” was released with the new handbook. That was when the age based patrol became recommended, they did away with time requirements between Scout though First Class, and started promoting the “One and Done” mentality prevalent today.

      So in essence age based patrols changed the patrol method in effect for 79 years.

      And many units found the aged based concept ineffective.

      • I was a scout some time between those dates. 😉

        And yes when I joined scouts (there was no cross-over … a friend asked me and a couple other boys from my den to join his troop as I was completing 5th grade) we were dropped into existing patrols based on our ties with the older scouts.

        But a couple years (and a rank or two) later, all of the Webelos from one or two dens were joining our troop, so the SM asked if I would leave my patrol to be their leader. We made introductions, they had no problem “electing” me, and we became the troop’s first age-based patrol. We were pretty effective. And by the time I was ready to move on to SPL in a year or two, my replacement was able to keep it going.

        SPLs and JASMs were part of the Leadership Corps … the de-facto older scout patrol. Nobody griped if you spent the evening at your former patrol’s campsite, but generally you were also planning additional campouts or helping out on Eagle projects. So the balance of mentoring and “adventure” was maintained.

        We didn’t call ourselves age-based, but a rose by any other name …

        Scouters today would do well to maintain that level of flexibility and not paint history with too broad of a brush.

    Most 16 and 17 year olds do not fit well in a mixed age patrol, especially if near or post Eagle. This may also apply to high school agers (grades 9 to 12, and some late 8th graders).
    Many times, BSA’s answer for “older scouts” has been a SENIOR PATROL, in the Troop. Or in addition to their old troop, involvement in Team, Club, Crew, or Ship.

    Older Scouts can serve in the various offices in the troop (APL/PL on up). They can be proven leaders and get things done with litttle adult intervention, but this is at the cost of slots for younger Scouts to learn and grow in leadership skills (and self-confidence).

    The one-age New Scout Patrol requires an older and more experienced Patrol Guide, not just a gang of equals floundering around trying to figure out what is going on & popular elected PL/APL who has no better idea of what is happening. In practice, what I have seen is the Guide working as “co-patrol leader” for the first ~3 months and then fade into the background and function as an expert/instructor/example in Scoutcraft.

    And, Patrol Leaders frequently function better when a year or two older / grade or two / rank one or two above the rest of their Patrol. [in the extreme, it is a wast to use an Eagle Scout as a Patrol Leader – unless there are very serious problems in the Patrol or troop structure].

  64. I had mixed age patrols when I was a Scout, things seemed to go fine then. I understand the concept of the New Scout Patrol to help them work towards learning skills and whatnot. The problem comes with leadership, especially if the New Scout Patrol Leader gets no guidance from the SPL or the SM to do what he’s supposed to do to make things run.

    After that first year I see value in mixing up the patrols, especially when you have high fliers who are First Class by the end of their first summer camp because they worked hard and did the right things to advance. I would never put older Scouts directly in the younger patrols, but look to the SPL to assign them for their positive influence into helping them develop. My troop has not had much success with Troop Guides–usually used for a “leadership position” for older Scouts who have already done or don’t want any significant leadership position and then they did little to help out the new Scouts advance or grow. Not everything runs like NYLT or Wood Badge.

    Trying something new, I encouraged the new SPL that assigning some of our older Scouts as Junior Assistant Scoutmasters would be a good idea. One was previous SPL for 2 years under a SM who did little to train him directly and the other is the same age but didn’t want to run for SPL. Giving them that title put a little weight behind the role to help the New Scouts get their advancement straightened out and gave these Scouts a significant role to make the troop better. Also took some of the pressure off the SPL and kept some of the adults out of the mix. It also gives them the sense that they’ve “arrived” and that the adult leadership trusts them to do great things. I remember becoming a JASM, I was very excited about that position.

    Hang me out to dry if you want to but there are many ways to skin a cat, Do what works best for you and your troop within the auspices of Scouting and the Guide to Safe Scouting.

  65. The SPL was elected by the boys to run the Troop under the guidance of the scoutmaster. Let the SPL do what he was elected to do. Mr. Scoutmaster provide the guidance required.

    Let him try and if it doesn’t work switch back.

    This is based on 44 years of providing guidance to SPLs

  66. Dr. Goodwin above has the right idea. His Troop is a good one. If only the adults would step back and WATCH the fun, instead of trying to join in.
    Paul: Your heart is in the right place, I have no doubt. Any Scout who rubs up against you will gain by the occasion, but , to re-phrase a phrase, “all Scouting is local”, It is important to follow the BSA program and requirements as much as possible, but it does happen that things need to be adjusted to local conditions and experience. The “traditional” Patrol is still allowed, if that is the right term. The age based Patrol is not the National Requirement, only a suggestion now. Thankfully.
    The boy/girl who comes out of a traditional Scout program/Troop is far better prepared for independent living. They have learned to cooperate with their peers, accomplish group goals (teamwork?), they can cook and clean and know how to depend on themselves. How is that possible when dad and mom make it impossible to fail?
    See you on the trail….

  67. There are really two questions here. The one most everyone is addressing is which form of patrol organization is better for a given troop. But the more important question is whether this kind of decision is within the authority of the SPL. Ask yourself these two questions. First, how long is the SPL’s term of office? Second, what happens when the next SPL takes office and decides he wants to organize the troop a different way? Depending on the length of the SPL’s term (three months, six months, etc.) you could be reorganizing patrols with some frequency. That is not a good scenario. Reorganizing patrols should not be undertaken lightly or frequently. It is a decision for the uniformed adults, in consultation with the Unit Committee. To be sure, the adults should listen to youth concerns, but reorganizing the troop is not a decision for regularly rotating youth leadership.

Join the conversation