Scouting uses different methods to achieve its aims of character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. The methods of Scouting include Scouting ideals, patrols, outdoor programs, advancement, adult association, personal growth, leadership development, and uniform. Each of these methods is individually important in achieving the aims of Scouting as well as the mission and vision of the Boy Scouts of America. As I have grown as an eleven-year-old (EYO) Scout leader, I have learned to pay attention to each of these methods and reflect on how well I am doing using these methods for the betterment of the young men in my charge.
I have observed EYO patrols that heavily emphasize one of the methods over another or simply neglect a method completely. Sometimes this is due to the leader being new to Scouting, and just growing into the position of being an EYO Scout leader and focusing on advancement in the first year at the exclusion of other methods.
A comment on one of my previous blogs highlighted that one EYO Scout leader thought that EYO Scouts were too young to implement the patrol method and run their own patrol. EYO Scouts are very young, but so are Arrow of Light Scouts. Scouting has pushed the patrol method down to the Webelos program in its recent revision of Cub Scouting. Granted, the sophistication and execution at the Cub Scout and EYO Scout levels will be different than the implementation at the deacon, teacher, or priest levels, but it is a place to start.
Scouting is a progressive program spread out in the Church from 8-year-olds to 18-year-olds. Having the boys use the patrol method is a key element of their development. I would concur that the implementation of the patrol method with eleven-year-olds is not easy, but it can be done. It requires the EYO Scout leader to meet with the patrol leader between meetings to ensure he is prepared, and to do a practice run of the next patrol meeting. Finding the time in the busy lives of our EYO Scouts, let alone our own lives, can be daunting, but finding that time is key to the boy’s success at being the patrol leader. I have the EYO patrol leader lead the opening, review the calendar, lead a discussion on what good turns each Scout did during the week, lead the game or patrol activity, lead the evaluation/reflection at the end of each meeting, and conduct the closing. The patrol leader will turn the time over to the EYO Scout leader or other adult scheduled to do the skill instruction portion of the patrol meeting and to give the Scoutmaster’s minute.
When I want something done, I ask the patrol leader to get it accomplished and he works with the patrol members to accomplish the task. After the meeting, I direct the patrol leader to supervise any cleaning up and report to me when it is complete. On outings, I direct the patrol leader to meet me with the patrol at a certain place and time; and then send them off. As leaders, I avoid hovering. Then I give them a head start and follow from a distance in 5 to 10 minutes. I try and avoid hovering. If adults hover over the boys, it distracts from them developing as a unit. It is okay for them to make mistakes. In fact, it is expected. That is why evaluation is so important. It is the opportunity to open the discussion and formulate solutions to improve. That is the process.
The patrol method is about responsibility and shared leadership between the adult leader and the boy leader. The EYO Scout leader frames the program and passes his vision to the boy leader to implement. This includes framing activities around the twelve program features found in the Boy Scout Handbook, using the ideals of Scouting, using the outdoors, and pursuing advancement. It is also the means whereby the adult EYO Scout leader achieves the goal of leadership development.
The EYO patrol leader has specific responsibilities which include: planning patrol meetings and activities using Troop Planning Features Volume I and suggested forms, leads patrol meetings and activities, leads the patrol in the annual EYO patrol planning conference, uses and develops the 11 leadership skills in himself and others, keeps patrol members informed, assigns each patrol member a specific duty and reviews his performance, prepares the patrol to participate in all activities, works with adult troop leaders to make the troop run well, knows the abilities of each patrol member, sets a good example, wears the Scout uniform correctly, lives by the Scout Oath and Law, follows the Scout motto and Scout slogan, and shows and develops patrol spirit.
The EYO Scout leader’s job is to teach EYO Scouts how to lead. To teach them when to use the different leadership styles of joining, directing, selling, consulting, or delegating. We teach the EYO Scouts how to communicate, how to embrace change, how to identify and use resources, how to plan, how to control the group, how to recognize the needs of others, how to teach, and how to evaluate.
The patrol method develops a boy’s sense of responsibility and develops his character. Character development is an inherent element of the vision of both Primary and the Boy Scouts. Learning to implement and use the patrol method as EYO Scouts becomes the foundation for our boys to later serve as leaders in their quorums and on their missions, lead their families, and provide effective leadership in their Church callings and in their occupations throughout their lives.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake where he is an EYO Scout leader. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.