BSA Methods – The Patrol Method

The Patrol Method

The methods of Scouting are the ways that Scouting’s aims of developing character, citizenship, and fitness in youth are achieved. One of the methods is “the patrol method”.

A patrol is a small group of Scouts BSA within a troop. They elect a patrol leader and function almost like a family within the troop. They divide up the chores to be done and work together as a group to meet their goals. They develop a patrol spirit and take pride in their accomplishments as a team.

The object of the patrol method is not so much saving the Scoutmaster trouble as to give responsibility to the boy. – Sir Robert Baden-Powell

Sounds easy right? Well, this is one of the things our troop continues to struggle with. Officially we have 3 patrols, each with 9 or 10 Scouts. But the attendance at meetings and outings is really unpredictable.  If only two members of one patrol show up, and five from another, and three from the third, it is really difficult for them to function as independent units. So we keep working with our youth leadership to try to make it work.

Sometimes I wonder what Baden-Powell had in mind. But I’m sure he knew that it would not always work smoothly. Letting the youth work on issues like this is a learning process. If they can make the patrol method work, then that is leadership in action.

How to Strengthen the Patrol Method

So what are some ways to develop the patrol method? Here are a few ideas, but feel free to add your own in the comments below:

  • Developing patrol spirit through a patrol name, yell, and flag
  • Working together as a patrol during outdoor activities
  • Inter-patrol competitions
  • Having regular patrol meetings, even if only for a few minutes during a troop meeting

Recommended Book

Want to improve the implementation of the patrol method in your unit? This is a great book to help: A Scout Leader’s Guide to Youth Leadership Training: Working the Patrol Method

Read My Review of this book

How Many Count as a Patrol?

Karen asked this question: “How many boys from a Patrol does there need to be to qualify as doing “anything” as a Patrol?” Read my answer and add your own comments.

Inactive Scouts in Patrols

A reader is involved in a large troop, but due to low participation from scouts it is difficult to have patrol leader elections and a youth led program.

Why Use It?

First of all, because Baden-Powell considered it an essential part of Scouting. And because it allows youth to participate and develop leadership skills. Read more reasons.


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