Setting up the Patrol Method (110 lines)
CHUCK BRAMLET (chuckb@AZTEC.ASU.EDU)
Mon, 20 Apr 1998 00:20:04 -0700
The following is related to a number of old discussions, and is taken
from the 1957 printing of the fourth edition of the Handbook for Scout-
masters. (The same book I cited from earlier.)
[Note: "_" indicates italicized words, not underlined, as is usual.]
Setting up the Patrol Method (Chapter 2)
The first step in setting up the Patrol Method is to help the boys form
Patrols that are as close to the boys' natural gang as possible. The
method varies somewhat, depending on whether you are starting a new
Troop or reorganizing an old one.
Forming Patrols in a New Troop
Let's say that you have started a new Troop, and asked a few boys to
get the Troop under way. From that very first meeting, get the boys to
think in terms of Patrols. Tell them what Patrols are. Explain to them
that eventually it will be up to them to decide how the Patrols will be
Then show them what a good Patrol is by running that meeting of the
new Troop and a couple more after it as Patrol meetings, with you as the
"Patrol Leader" of a single Patrol. ([Ref to "Tool 1"])
Start off with a simple ceremony, then work on the Tenderfoot
Requirements and on plans for the future.
But most important--include a couple of fun games requiring two
teams. Let the boys form teams for the first of these games without any
suggestions from you. Play the game, then try another--after suggesting
to the boys that they may want to change around a bit. In this way,
they begin to find out which fellows they like.
At the next meeting, try a few Scoutcraft games--such as a knot relay
or a Flag quiz--again with teams that the Scouts themselves have formed.
When you feel that the boys know each other quite well, announce that
the Troop is ready to form its Patrols. Then simply ask the boys to
make up their gangs, as they would for a game. And here you have your
However, if you have any reason to think that this won't work in your
Troop, try another: After the boys have played their team games, give
them pencil and paper, and ask them to write down the names of those he
would like to team up with in a Patrol.
Before the following meeting, work over the sheets and arrange the
boys in Patrols according to their wishes, using your best judgement in
case of doubt, or if a boy is left out.
At this stage of the Troop, don't worry too much about the smallness
of the Patrols. You will have quicker success by having the boys work
in too small Patrols instead of in a single larger Troop group. The
Patrols will grow naturally, as more boys join.
Forming Patrols in an Old Troop
In an old Troop, it may not be so much a matter of _forming_ Patrols
as of _re-forming_ them, if necessary.
At some time or other most Troops find out that their Patrols aren't
what they should be. Some of the older Scouts have left, new recruits
have come in; or one Patrol has become weak, another too large; or one
Patrol Leader has left town; another is due to become Senior Patrol
The first thing to do is to consider the matter of re-forming the
Patrols, at a meeting of the leaders of the Troop. Explain the
situation, and get the Patrol Leaders to surrender their office, with
the understanding that they are eligible for re-election.
At the next Troop meeting, announce that the leaders have decided
that the Patrols should be re-formed. Then ask the boys to write down
the names of the five, six, or seven fellows--as the case may be--they
would like to have in their Patrol.
Take the sheet home with you, and, before the next Troop meeting,
arrange the Scouts in Patrols according to their preferences.
Composition of the Patrols
It is a good idea to tell the boys, before they vote, something about
the way to form strong Patrols.
A good Patrol is likely to come out of a _natural_gang_ of three or
four good friends. However, the gang should be encouraged to take in a
few more boys to form a full Patrol. Otherwise, you may find you have a
clique on your hands, that will have little sense of cooperation and
little regard for other Patrols. Usually a bit of guidance given at the
right time will keep such a gang straight and help develop Patrol Spirit
rather than clique spirit.
A group of boys who know each other because they live in the _same_
_neighborhood_, or go to the _same_school_, makes for a good foundation
for a Patrol. It will be easy for them to get together regularly for
On the other hand, boys who did not know each other before they
joined the Troop may have struck up a strong friendship on a hike or an
overnight camp. They may want to be together although they live some
distance apart and go to different schools. _Friends_, whether new or
old, should be encouraged to join the same Patrol.
The question of _age_ needs to be considered. On the surface, it
might seem well enough to have all the boys in a Patrol of the same age.
But age alone means little, unless the boys have other common bonds.
Simply being thirteen does not necessarily mean that a boy has the same
maturity and interests as all other thirteen-year-olds in the Troop.
[The following paragraph was not included in the fifth edition of this
book. I find that a bit interesting, myself... CB]
Another point is that Patrols made up of boys of different ages are
more likely to be permanent, because not all of the boys will leave the
Patrol at the same time. In such a Patrol, the older Scouts can help
train the younger ones, and the younger Scouts have a better chance for
leadership, as the old timers grow out of the Patrol.
Size of the Patrol
Another important factor in the "ganginess" of the Scout Patrol is
The size depends a lot on the boys' own choice of Patrolmates and
should pretty much be left up to the boys themselves.
Generally speaking, six or seven boys in a Patrol seems to be about
average. A four- or five-man group may work efficiently, but may be
handicapped when it comes to interPatrol activities. Eight should
usually be the maximum, since few boy leaders can handle more.
Chuck Bramlet, ASM Troop 323,
Firebird District, Grand Canyon Council, Phoenix, Az. Member DNRC
I "used to be" an Antelope! WEM-10-95 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
"With every deed, you are sowing a seed,
though the harvest you may not see." -- Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City