PATROL v. DINING HALL COOKING
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Sat, 24 Jun 1995 13:38:53 -0400
In successive Summers not so long ago I was the Program Director of a camp
that used the patrol cooking method exclusively and then Program Director
of a camp that used the dining hall approach exclusively. Both camps
were in Northern Indiana with Scouts from similar socio-economic
backgrounds with a wide variety of Troop sizes and experience levels. In
both places we kept statistics for the Councils on advancement and merit
badges. In both places the results were so close that there really was
not any significant difference. In both places larger experienced Troops
averaged about three merit badges per boy (some getting as many as six or
seven and as few as one) with about 80% of Scouts under First Class
finishing rank requirements. Small and less experienced Troops averaged
slightly less in each category - closer to two and a half merit badges and
about 70% rank advancement under First Class. Provisional units were
slightly under the small units.
The only difference was in Scoutmaster perceptions. In the patrol site
cooking camp about half the Scoutmasters felt that Patrol Cooking
detracted from advancement and merit badge opportunities and in the
Dining Hall camp about half the Scoutmasters felt that the absence of
Patrol Cooking helped advancement. The results were not significantly
different - only the perceptions.
Why the difference in perceptions???
It is real easy to see that the Scouts have to collect food (usually at a
commissary, sometimes dropped nearby), that they spend time cooking, that
they take time to eat and that they agonize at clean-up.
It isn't as easy to see that the Scouts would spend the same amount of
time walking to the dining hall, setting up tables, eating, having group
songs, skits, announcements, staff antics, milling about, flag ceremonies,
etc. and then spend time on the way stopping off at the trading post, etc.
on the way back. Net result was about the same amount of time spent.
Which is better?
Patrol method encourages teamwork, leadership skills, shared
responsibility, Scoutcraft skills, etc.
Dining hall method encourages group fellowship, Scout spirit, making new
friends outside the Troop, etc.
In both situations I found my self eating excellent meals as well as
terrible meals - yes Dining hall cooks can replicate the worst a Scout can
do at a campsite and Scouts can add little touches that best group
My thought is that there really isn't a "best for everybody" answer. It
depends on what you think your Scouts need the most. If your Troop is on
the road every month with a very active camping program, then the Dining
Hall camps make a lot of sense to develop fellowship and spirit. If your
Troop doesn't have that kind of opportunity a Patrol Cooking camp offers a
great chance to learn skills missed throughout the year. Also if you have
a lot of Webelos just turned Boy Scouts, the Patrol Cooking can make the
rest of your outings a lot easier during the year - more successful. They
learn the basic and then each of your Outings goes with fewer hitches and
less of them dropout.
From my experience as a Scout camper (six years), a camp staffer (eleven
years) and an in camp leader (both Webelos and Scouts) at nine different
camps I'd be hard pressed to say that one method is better than another.
Both offer great opportunities - just depends on what you want and what
you like - more imporantly on what the Scouts want and like!
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
Prof. Beaver, Nat. Capital Area Council, BSA mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City