Scoutmaster Musings - Forming Patrols

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Scoutmaster Musings

Forming Patrols
New Scouts joining the troop are a blast. When they are with the older scouts in the troop, they are pensive, unsure, quiet, and checking out everything that goes on around them. Then, when they are in their New Scout Patrol with just their peers, the chatter goes through the roof, they get squirrely, and the excitement of being a Scout really shows. In a month, when they are comfortable with their position in the troop, the troop meetings will be more 'lively'.

Our troop has new scouts from 4 different packs this year, from a single scout out of one to an entire den of 7 scouts from another. In past years, it's been easy because we only had enough new scouts to make one patrol or we had fairly even-sized groups from packs so they made patrols. But, this year, there are some new challenges and some of what I've done might be helpful to others.

First off, I had to decide to split 18 scouts into 2 or 3 patrols. I would love to have 3 patrols and then have every scout really try to recruit another boy to join. If 2 in each patrol were successful, that would make patrols of 8 scouts each. But, historically, individual scouts have rarely recruited friends.

A patrol in our troop typically has 50% to 75% participation on campouts. A patrol of 6 means 3 to 5 scouts while a patrol of 9 means 5 to 7 on a campout. Nearly all scouts in our troop are active in at least 2 other organizations besides school - sports, music, theater, church.

For those reasons, we have 2 new patrols with 9 scouts in each. This gives them the opportunity to earn the National Honor Patrol award too. I believe patrols of 8 to 10 work better than 6-8, especially in communities with many activity choices.

It didn't seem right to have 7 friends from a pack in a patrol with 1 or 2 new guys thrown in. To mix things up and still keep good friends together, I made a list of all the scouts and handed it out to every scout. They chose 1, 2, or 3 names they wanted to be with in a patrol. Or, they could choose "Anyone is fine".

This actually worked out very well. Every scout got to be with at least 2 of his 3 choices. One patrol was made up of 4 from a den and 5 from another den. The other patrol had 1, 1, 4, 3 so there was no dominating group in either patrol. The next time this happens, I'll have them pick 1 or 2 names instead of 3. That will set their expectations better.

The last thing I did was to talk with all the new scouts in a separate room from the troop. I made it clear (hopefully) that scouting is an individual adventure in the company of other adventurers. At times, we'll all work together and other times they each have to push themselves to succeed. One of the great parts of scouting is making new friends and I will put the patrols together to make that possible. My goal was to set their expectations that Boy Scouts is a new, different experience from Cub Scouts and they won't have the same old guys together - they're expected to make a new gang.

On Monday, the new scouts will meet and learn who is in their patrols. The Troop Guides will make the announcement and then gather their scouts together for a couple get-acquainted games. They'll then do as many of the Joining requirements as they can and start in on Patrol identity - name, yell, and flag.

Realistically, two scouts from each patrol will drop scouting in the first 6 to 10 months. Since I know this to be a high probability, recruitment will be pushed. The SPL, Troop Guides, and Scoutmaster will all be telling the new scouts that 10 is the best size for a patrol. They will be encouraged to invite friends to our open house in May or to a troop meeting, patrol meeting, or campout.

Scout On

Posted: 10:54 03-14-2008 317
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