Friday, April 3, 2009

11-Year Olds and the Patrol Method

I must say, I'm a fan of the patrol method. I believe strongly that a patrol should eat together, work together and play together. I believe in allowing youth to plan and conduct activities. I believe in sending youth leaders to training to make them better leaders. I also believe that patrols in an 11-year old program are too junior to operate in any sort of self-governed manner. They are still 11-year olds, after all.

That having been said, I still believe that 11-year olds should go through the exercise of creating their patrol. I have my 11-year olds re-form their patrol every six months. This is for one very practical reason: the timing of my program. It takes me about six months to run through all of the requirements from brand-new Scout to completion of First Class; excluding campouts. So, I basically run my program on a six month rotation. I always have one of my first couple meetings in the rotation be patrol formation. I know that the requirements are just that the Scouts "know [the] patrol name, give the patrol yell, and describe [the] patrol flag" but I feel that they know these things best if they've had a part in creating them. Plus it gives the Scouts a chance to switch out an unpopular patrol name/flag/yell and gives different Scouts leadership opportunities.

So, we go through the exercise of creating a patrol and electing leaders, but I don't truly expect an 11-year old patrol leader to do a lot of leading. And, I don't even try to have him involved in the planning. I'm typically pleased if the patrol leader acts like slightly less of a maniac than the rest of the Scouts.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Patrol Flag

A basic patrol flag does not have to be difficult. It also doesn't have to be a work of art. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that the Scouts make it themselves. It would be too easy for a leader or parent to make a gorgeous flag that looks great but doesn't give the patrol any sense of ownership. I try to have my Scouts make their patrol flag right after they select a name and elect their leadership. I think this helps cement their relationship as a patrol. It's not going to go perfectly smooth and you shouldn't expect it to. There will be false starts and messing around and arguments over who is doing what. As a leader I try to keep the guys on track and get them to put something together.
The reality for my groups has been that their patrol flag gets almost no real usage. There are multiple reasons for this. The first is that I like to reform the patrol every six months. The time frame of existence for this patrol becomes so short that the flag becomes obsolete very quickly. In my opinion the patrol flag primarily comes into play when the patrol is interacting with other troops. My experience has been that 11-year old LDS patrols don't do a lot of interacting. You might get it at a campout but, since we're limited to three campouts per year, the timing may work against you. It is possible, and could be advisable, to make the patrol flag a fixture at regular patrol meetings but I've never made that happen. I'll have to give it a try and report on the results.

Based on what I have seen from patrol flag competitions, a good patrol flag should have the following elements:

  • Hand-drawn artwork (no computer graphics)
  • Name of the patrol
  • Logo or emblem for the patrol
  • Troop number
  • Something representing each patrol member. This can be their names drawn on, some dangling chits, etc.
Different leaders will most certainly have different opinions on what should be on a patrol flag, but this is what has worked for me.

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