In response to the post Patrol Method a reader asked the following about Scout patrols:
I have been an assistant scoutmaster for some time and was recently asked by the committee to be the new Scoutmaster. I have had only one
One of the things that concerns me is the patrol setup in our troop. We are setup as the Scoutmaster Handbook says – Webelos that cross over together and new boys form a “new boy patrol” – we have “regular” patrols, then we have a “venture” patrol.
My question is (and we use the Troop Guide the best we can) – why does the mixing of ages in patrols not work? I have noticed that as the boys grow older they stick to themselves, the new boys are coming in lost. Wouldn’t it be nice to have them integrated into the patrols when they first come in?
When they went on a campout then they could rely on the experience of the other guys in their patrol, the ranks would be spread out across the patrol and the could help teach the younger scouts? Does anyone have any feedback for me?
Yes – integrating the patrols by age is important. Any Scoutmaster would admit that encouraging Scouts of different ages to work together is an ongoing challenge. Here are some methods that you may find effective –
- The New Scout Patrol concept has some positive aspects and was formulated (I believe) in response to the concern that the greatest attrition of new Scouts happens within the first year. The old practice used to be that incoming Webelos were divided amongst patrols and some of them would be intimidated by the older Scouts.
- I hold that keeping Webelos together is important but perhaps not all of them in a single patrol. The den leader or, ideally, den chief may have some insight on how the Webelos should be grouped together into Patrols – it is entirely possible that the Webelos would prefer being split up. Ask them what they would like to do.
- Make serving as a Den Chief the path to becoming a Patrol leader. While I understand the idea of having a Troop Guide it doesn’t seem necessary if, during their first year in the Troop, new Scouts are lead by their former Den Chief. Ideally the Den Chief should take over from his Patrol when the new Scouts join the Troop and the current Patrol leader moves on to another leadership position. That way there are a few older boys still involved with the patrol when the new Scouts arrive.
- When Webelos join the troop they don’t want a Patrol with training wheels – they want a full fledged Patrol free from the stigma of being the ‘little kids’ Patrol.
- Expect and require that older Scouts involve themselves in leading the younger by making it an inevitability. They must instruct, lead games, train and mentor the new Scouts. If adults do these jobs then it is little wonder that older Scouts gravitate to their own corner.
How do you get started? How about sitting down with your youth leadership and sharing the concerns expressed here and asking them for ideas. Sit back and listen and see what they come up with. Keep them focused on the goal of building strong patrols and you will be surprised with what they can do.
One periodic event that causes a great deal of excitement and Patrol spirit is the Inter-Patrol Scoutmaster’s Challenge.