Norman Rockwell's Boy Scout painting

BSA Methods – 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 Boy Scouts 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.

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
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

One Response to BSA Methods – The Patrol Method

  1. Tom Linton March 4, 2017 at 11:29 PM #

    He had in mind a small group of friends, not a group of boys assembled to match some adult idea of “balance.”

    He said, and BSA says today, that a Scout is to “primarily experience” Boy Scouting in the context of his patrol with its “separate” life of Scouting activity. The troop exists for the administrative convenience of the patrols that make up the troop, not the reverse. Inter-patrol activity is described in 2017 as a “sometimes” thing: “[The patrol members] interact in a small group outside the larger troop context, working together as a team and sharing the responsibility of making their patrol a success.” The troop is the “league” for the patrol teams.

    If only two show up, that patrol can still work on Scoutcraft, but they may be barred from inter-patrol contests: “Sorry, boys,” says the SPL. “Until at least Larry, Moe and Curley come to meetings you can’t be in the knot relay. The PLC has set a minimum of five participants per patrol.”

    Or the two can compete as best they can, or camp, or cook, or hike, The objective is not a well-oiled machine (I know you know this.)

    Are boys who don’t show up members of the team (patrol) at all?

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