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Large Troops

I have been involved with BSA for quite a while with a Chartered Organization that rarely has more than one patrol. We have a new Chartered Organization as of a few weeks ago. I believe we have a good potential of becoming a large troop and would like to organize and train the youth to be sustainable as the troop grows.

Even though I have been a Scoutmaster or equivalent multiple times and gone through most of the training many times (including training staff, training chair, course director), I have almost finished taken all of the available and applicable training that I can for anyone working in a troop. I am trying to do it with a new outlook, new lenses, whatever you want to call it.

Below are some thoughts that I had:

  1. In one of the videos, it said something to the effect of it is not the troop that defines the patrol, but the patrol that defines itself and creates the troop.
  2. As I thought about some of the training, it shows the youth as the apex of a pyramid, supported by the patrol, supported by the troop, supported by the committee, supported by the district, etc.
  3. One of the methods of Scouting is Patrol Method, not the troop method
  4. Program Features has weekly troop meeting with about 40 minutes broken out to “Skills Instruction” (about 25 minutes and at different levels, I read as patrol) and “Breakout Groups” (about 15 minutes and practice as patrol, patrol meeting, etc.)
  5. To me, this might not be enough time, for example, a “New-Scout” patrol (or any in each of the patrols) trying to work on requirements through First Class
  6. Patrols typically have 6-10 members of the patrol
  7. Wood Badge models troop AND patrol meetings plus the Outpost Camp is at a patrol level
  8. It would be rather difficult to go on outings with a large troop (camping, backpacking, back country, hiking, bicycling, just about everything in the outdoors, and even field trips to planetarium/aquarium/zoo/museum, police/fire station, court house) . . . thinking about Leave No Trace, Tread Lightly, etc.

So, with the above in mind, it SEEMS to me that:

  1. Patrols probably should have their own patrol meetings
  2. Patrols probably should have their own campouts, hikes, etc.
  3. Troop should also have campouts, but maybe more limited to maybe four months: Scout Camp, Camporees, Klondikes)
  4. Requires a great Troop Committee
  5. Requires great Assistant Scoutmasters (probably at least two per patrol)
  6. Scoutmaster focuses on training and advising the SPL & ASPL and make sure they pass the tools to the rest of the PLC
  7. Scoutmaster helps train & advise the ASMs
  8. Scoutmaster may rotate around through patrols’ campouts & meetings as a fly-on-the-wall or as a special event
  9. Scoutmaster may meet with each youth maybe once a year for Scoutmaster’s Conference, maybe just periodic or for certain rank advancements or helping youth that are not advancing
  10. Other Scoutmaster’s Conferences may be delegated to ASMs

Now my questions:

  1. How large is your troop?
  2. What are your thoughts on my line of thinking?
  3. Am I thinking down the right path or did I wonder down some wild tangent?
  4. If some topics are correct or wrong, I would like to know which are which and how you would change it?
  5. Did I miss anything?

I hope that I did not miss anything and if I did, I may add comments to the topic below. I appreciate your time, opinions, and service to the youth!
-Thomas Lerman

My son’s troop is 100+ kids. They camp at least once per month as a troop, occasionally smaller groups go camping as well but the entire troop has an outing monthly. We have no difficulties with these troop level outings.

Growing up my troop camped as 30+ scouts in 4 patrols or so.

One just has to have a big enough campsite or campsites for the patrols to be “off on their own” - tents, dining flys, fire pit (at times) etc.

Finding campgrounds large enough to support our 100+ member troop has never been a problem for us even though we are drom the middle of a huge metropolitan area

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I’ve seen our troop fluctuate between 8 and 40.
You’re crazy to think that these patrols can operate independently.
But often crazy is also right!

In terms of omissions, you need to define patrol method in these terms:

  • friendly competition between patrols. The troop is a league, the patrols are a team. The compete to have the coolest flag, loudest yells, duties for meeting opening closing and cleanup, best songs, sharpest uniforms, most camping nights, best skills, etc … if your meeting place will give each patrol a room, this patrol spirit will grow.
  • physical distance between patrols. If you’re thinking of troop outings as a postage stamp array of tents, one row per patrol, then have far less of those. If you’re thinking of an adult campsite in the center of a field and patrol sites 100 yards away from the adults and each other, then have those every month.

I suggest checking out http://inquiry.net/patrol/index.htm and picking just a couple of these ideas to implement regularly with your scouts.

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Going down your questions, my troop is small. I would steer my son away from any troop much more than 50 at the top end. I think 30 to 40 is ideal. Perhaps ideal would be multiple troops of that size working cohesively.

As for your thinking, the more you let the youth define their situation the better. Having said that, a troop campout can be very patrol oriented if you let them. Nothing says patrols have to interact between getting their gear out and putting it back for the return trip.

Unless you have a ton of registered adult leaders, you will need to set some common time up for patrol meetings as well. Keep in mind that you MUST have two registered adult leaders at any activity. But… perhaps patrols can meet in conjunction with the troop meeting.

Along those lines - perhaps your PLC should decide if they want to modify the shape of the meeting. They can decide if patrols meet before or after the meeting. In an ideal world, they teach each other all the standard scout skills as well.

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