Re: Mixed-Age vs Age Based Patrols
Anthony J. Mako (ajmako@APK.NET)
Sun, 30 Nov 1997 14:28:09 -0500
I usually agree with what National suggests, basically because they spend a
lot of time figuring things out before they send it to us to "try it out".
While I can see the psychological reasoning behind discouraging age-based
patrols, I can't help but wonder about a few things:
* The Scoutmaster's Handbook says: "The purpose of this patrol [New Scout
Patrol] is to introduce new, younger boys to the ways of Boy Scouting and
help them master the skills leading to First Class rank. They will stay in
this patrol until they reach the seventh grade, or First Class -- whichever
happens first -- and will then join an regular patrol." What the new Scout
patrol does is teach the members how to work as a patrol and the basic
Scout skills. A lot of work goes into developing the patrol into a group
that can work together. Then we split them up into so called "real
patrols" and basically have to start all over.
* In new and rebuilding troops, we are pretty much stuck with age-based
patrols until the membership can support mixed-age patrols. By that time
the patrols have been working together for long enough that splitting them
up or re-organizing them can become disastrous. In established units,
mixed-age patrols already exist so the system can work as intended.
Having been a New Scout patrol SA in a large, established troop, I have
seen the New Scout patrol work, but not as it was intended. In that troop
the New Scout patrol simply moved up together. They were established as a
patrol from the start, spent a year learning to work together as a patrol,
and then simply elected a patrol leader for six months. The transition
from New Scout to regular patrol was very subtle and hardly noticed. This,
of course, results in age-based patrols which doesn't cause much of a
problem when the patrol camps as a patrol. When it becomes necessary to
merge patrols for an activity, the whole system seems to come undone.
Problems do crop up with age-based patrols. Recently, I learned that the
patrol I had been New Scout SA for no longer existed. Believe me, I spent
a great deal of time and energy getting those Scouts to work together as a
patrol. The membership of that patrol had dwindled to four (I started with
eight - one moved to Japan and became an SPL, one became a Troop Guide, and
two dropped out). I learned that the remaining four had been merged with a
younger patrol. So, it seems, the major problem with maintaining age-based
patrols is that the membership tends to dwindle after two or three years.
My suggestion is this: For new and recovering troops, stick with age-based
patrols until the membership can support mixed age patrols. After that,
don't re-organize everything just to get mixed-age patrols. As time goes
by there will be a need to fill in a patrol here or there. For established
units, don't re-organize unless it's absolutely necessary! Remember that
the troop is made up of patrols, not divided into patrols. Constantly
re-organizing patrols undermines the whole process.
And, for all of you who are about to become New Patrol SAs -> you're about
to have possibly the most fun any Scouter has a right to have. There will
be times when you'll want to jump in an explain things, but you won't.
There will be times when it will seem pointless to continue, but you will.
An in the end, if you're as lucky as I was, those new Scouts will honor you
(twice actually) by going on to bigger and better things.
BTW, at my last Court of Honor with Troop 59 (Mt. Baker Council) the
remaining members of the Beaver Patrol honored me by making me an honorary
member of their patrol. I used to look at them and wonder which two or
three of the original eight would earn Eagle, but it looks as though at
least four of them will. Nearly a year later, at the National Jamboree, I
met up with the one Scout from Troop 59 to make it to the Jamboree, and he
presented me with the Beaver Patrol flag. All of the patrol members had
signed it. In all of my several hundred years of experience in Scouting, no
patrol had ever done that before.
Anthony J. Mako, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scoutmaster, Troop 381, http://members.aol.com/Scouts381/
Great Trail Council, Akron, Ohio
"I used to be an Eagle, but I'll always be an Eagle!"
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City