Age-based vs Mixed-age Patrols
Andrew Hagemann (hagemann@VISI.NET)
Sat, 29 Nov 1997 14:04:28 -0500
Peter Farnham asked us for advice on following National's policy of
mixed-age patrols. Here is my take in it:
My 73-year-old Troop has used the New Scout Patrol method for years and
years, adopting it shortly after National recommended the program. We
are firm believers in the NSP program.
However, we have recently gone away from mixed-age patrols because the
older Scouts consistently refused to assimilate the younger boys who
joined their Patrol. They would stand in the same corner of the room
together during Scout meetings, but that's all. In fact, they split
into two or three distinct groups even then.
As they discover "perfume and gasoline", as one of our List so aptly put
it, the older boys stop going on our monthly Troop camping trips. This
always causes the mixed-age patrols a hardship since the remaining three
or four younger Scouts who want to go camping haven't a patrol-sized
group among which they can spread the camp chores. In our case, this
caused the younger Scouts to grow so discouraged that they wanted to
quit Boy Scouts. So, to make things more pleasant on the younger boys,
our solution was to combine two (or more) patrols for the week end.
Unfortunat4ely, this caused squabbling since they weren't a "real"
patrol. Invariably, the SPL had to step in to make them cooperate.
After years of this we eventually realized that we had natural
age-stratification occurring despite National's pronouncements to the
contrary. Accepting what we cannot change (one of the first signs of
wisdom), we created three aged-based main body patrols. Now our older
boys camp more regularly and the younger Scouts are happier also.
In my opinion, using age-based patrols makes it easier for younger boys
to learn the patrol method since they don't have to compete with the
older "more experienced" boys who tend to dominate any group they're in
because of their size and "maturity". My Troop tried hard for years to
make the mixed-age patrols work, even assigning an adult advisor to each
main body patrol (contrary to National's wishes) to try and stop the age
stratification. No amount of encouragement, pleading, or cajoling had
any effect on this problem. Reminding them that their next advancement
depended upon showing proper Scout Spirit had no effect either. Our
children instinctively know that our society has virtually outlawed even
the use of non-corporal disciplinary measures, and they trade heavily
upon this fact. I once overheard one of the older boys tell a buddy,
"Hey, it's the 'nineties. It's a great time to be a bully."
Since I'm the SA that looks after the new Webelos, I have their hearts
and minds even after they graduate from the NSP. Therefore, they are
always coming to me to tell me of their latest Scouting accomplishment
or what's bothering them (something that I encourage). I have yet to
hear any of them complain that they don't have older Scouts in their
patrol. And since we made this move we haven't had any boy express a
desire to quit because "I hate camping."
Andrew Hagemann <email@example.com>
SA, New Scout Patrol, Troop 6
Colonial Virginia Council
A "Charging" Buffalo, SR-158
Jamboree '97 Metal Work MB Booth Coordinator
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City