Patrol Method

The BigFoot Challenge

As we move into the Fall season Scout Troops everywhere are packing into the woods for great adventures.  Winter will soon be here and so Fall is a great time to reinforce the Leave No Trace Principles with the Scouts (and Adults) of your unit.
No matter what style of camping your Troop does the principles of Leave No Trace apply. is a great resource for you if you are just learning Leave No Trace or just need to brush up or see whats going on in the organization.
One of the cool things that has is the Bigfoot Challenge.  Check it out using the link.
The idea of the program is reducing your footprint.
Last year at the National Jamboree I made a commitment to do the Bigfoot challenge and have been teaching, coaching, and mentoring our Scouts to Leave No Trace.  Part of our challenge was to get a Leave No Trace Trainer in the Troop… yes.. the youth position.  The BSA has added a lot of Enhancements to its Leave No Trace Program and every unit should be taking advantage of it.
So back to the Bigfoot challenge…  The challenge simply asks that we do simple acts of environmental activism.. now this does no mean that you have to wear tie die or sandles.. but it does mean, in a Scouting context, that we act responsibly in the outdoors and are good stewards of our environment, particularly the outdoors that we enjoy when we go camping.
Simple little things like teaching our Scouts how to better plan and prepare to reduce the amount of trace we take out into the woods, using the “Bearmuda” triangle when setting up camp to reduce impact and animal issues, better ways to clean up dishes and cookware, using the patrol method to reduce to impact of large groups.
The Bigfoot Challenge also offers the change to win prizes.. and wait for it… Yes there is a patch available at the website.
So take the Bigfoot challenge…
Teach a Scout, Be an example, Join Leave No Trace and remember to reduce your footprint.. after all Bigfoot has been doing it for years!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, respect, Skills, training, Values | Leave a comment

Talking with my SPL

Troop 664 after the Polar Bear Swim

Last week at Summer camp, my SPL and I had the chance to sit in a row-boat together for 1 hour and 12 minutes.  During that time we talked about the week, leadership, attitudes, and his future.  It was one of the best hours I have ever spent in my life.  During that hour I met a new young man.. up until then, he was just another Scout that stepped up to meet the leadership challenge.  He has always been active and one of those guys that you can always count on.. some would call his type the core of the Troop.
I appreciated the fact that he was very open with the discussion and his sense of humor really came out.
I recorded our conversation and invite you to listen in.  SMMPodcast #93 is all us and a few guys swimming their mile swim.
I hope you enjoy the time spent with James, my SPL, as much as I did.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Just fun, Leadership, Patrol Method, podcast, Summer Camp | 3 Comments

You have got to be kidding me???

Ok.. so fair warning.. I am going to rant in this post.  I know that I try to keep this blog positive.. but this is something that I must get off my chest.  Why you may be asking?  Well its because what I am about rant about is a fundamental part of Scoutmastership.   And when I hear what I heard while at Summer camp, well it flat out worries me that there are Scoutmasters out there that are failing their Scouts.
Let me explain…
While at Summer Camp last week all of the Scoutmasters met daily at the program cabin.  Each day the staff would give the Scoutmasters a run down of the days events and take any questions or concerns that we may have.  On Tuesday night the Scouts would have to cook dinner in camp, so on Monday night, the commissioners gave the SPLs a meal order form.  This form had all the basics on it, the SPL was to scratch off the items that they would not need, sign the form, have the Scoutmaster initial it, and then turn it in on Tuesday morning.  Pretty simple.
So on Tuesday at the Scoutmaster meeting, the staff reminded us that the SPLs would be turning these forms in.  As soon as the staff made the comment three Scoutmasters (well we will call them Scoutmasters.. after all they have the patch on their uniforms) began to laugh.  The program director asked what was funny.  The Scoutmaster in question stated “Not sure you can trust an SPL to get it done..hahaha”  One of the other Scoutmasters suggested that he never saw the form and that the staff should had given the form to the Scoutmaster.. after all, he would be the one doing the cooking.
My jaw hit the deck and smoke began to appear from my ears.  I told myself to just shut up and let it go.  And then the following statement came ooozing out of this Scoutmasters mouth.  “You can’t trust a boy to this stuff”.  WHAT?
I looked at this dude and asked him if he ever heard of Youth Leadership?  He looked at me and said.. uh yeah.
I asked him if he was embarrased?  He said what for?  I asked him if he ever trained the SPL.. I mean after all.. it is the Scoutmasters job to train the Senior Patrol Leader.. right?  He replied its hopeless.. he’s just a kid.  I asked again if he was embarrassed.  Again he said what for?  I shared with him that I would be embarrassed if I would have said something like that, especially on a deck full of Scoutmasters.  He told me that I would not understand.  I asked him to help me understand why he would not train a Scout to lead, I asked him to explain to me why he had no faith in the Scout.   I asked him to share with me what he thought his responsibility was as a Scoutmaster when it came to training, coaching, and teaching the SPL.  He looked at me with a puzzled look.. that was all could take.  The staff at that point stepped in and said they would take care of it.
So there it is… This saddened me.  I was dumbfounded at the lack of training this Adult offered his Scouts.  I am saddened that the Scouts of his unit will not get opportunities or the trust of an adult allowing them to be successful.  It is tragic that the Scouts of his unit are getting the benefit of the full Scouting program.  I can only imagine how the rest of the program in that Troop is lacking.  At the end of the day, it’s the Scouts that will suffer.. but then again.. what they don’t know.. well, yes it will hurt them in the long run.
They do not have a leader willing to Train them, Trust them, and let them lead.
An hour in the middle of the lake in a row-boat made me feel much better.

I apologize for the negative post.  I try not to do this, but this one has been on my mind since Monday of last week and I could not let it go another day.
Please everyone.. Be a good Scoutmaster!  Train them, Trust them, and Let the Boys lead!

Have a Great Scouting day!

Categories: blog, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Patrol Method, Summer Camp | 5 Comments

Special Awards and Recognition

Every Troop has its traditions, customs, and special awards and recognition.  I thought I would share with you a special award that our Troop does every year.  This is my favorite award of the year and I take a great deal of pleasure in presenting this at our Court of Honor after Summer camp.
We call it the “Bobby Walker Award”.  It is named after a Scout that used to be in our Troop.  Now without going into to much detail on Bobby, lets just say that Bobby had a hard knock life.  Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a truly hard knock life… ok then now you get it.  Bobby was brought to us by a sponsor from an organization in Portland.  They were looking for some “other experiences” for Bobby to see and do.  Well, much to everyone’s surprise Bobby took to Scouting like he was Baden-Powell son.  He loved everything about it.  He had a uniform, he had friends, he loved to camp and hang out with his new buddies, but most of all.. He LOVED Summer camp!  When we arrived at Summer camp, Bobby fully immersed his whole being into the camp.  He would work merit badges, spend lots of time at the water front (he learned to swim at summer camp), he loved the camp fires, the songs and skits, well… just everything that summer camp is supposed to be.  The week at summer camp for Babby Walker was like a week in heaven.
After one particular summer camp I was so moved by watching Bobby over the week that we (the ASMs and I) decided to give him a special award.  So I purchased one of those Boy Scout memorabilia boxes from the Scout shop and we presented it to him at the Court of Honor.  We called it the Spirit of Summer camp award that year.
The next year Bobby had to leave our Troop.  There was no good byes or reasons why, his sponsor just showed up without him one meeting night and with a tear in his eye told me that Bobby was “moving on”.  I never asked any more about it, but it saddened me.
So the next year at camp the Troop and I decided that the award would be called the Bobby Walker award.  Awarded to the Scout that demonstrated the best of what Summer camp is all about.  To the Scout that immersed himself into the camp.  Each year we give a Scout memorabilia box to the most deserving Scout as voted by the Assistant Scoutmasters and I.
This has become a great tradition in our Troop and each year the Scouts look forward to seeing who gets the Bobby Walker award.  It is also a great opportunity to share the story with the Scouts to remind them that they are the lucky ones.  I’ll do a post on that another time.
So what are some of the traditions and special recognitions of your Troop.  Leave them in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Camping, Ideals, Just fun, Patrol Method, stories, Summer Camp | Leave a comment

Skinned knees and bee stings

Now you all know that cliché’s drive me a little nuts and I really hate most sayings like.. “Boys will be boys”.. but in this case I want to write about boys not being able to be boys.
I am no expert in all things boy, but I know what right looks like.  I will not say that the my childhood represents the “Good ‘Ol days” either.. they were fun times and days that shaped the person I am today… but to say that they were better than any other time would be disingenuous.
And I am not going to jump right on the band wagon and say that all of our boys are growing up to soft.. well, I am sort of saying that and I agree with many of the popular arguments for the reasons why.
This last Saturday I was trapped in a car full of teen agers.  In that car was one young man coming into his Freshman year at our High School, he is also a Scout in my Troop.  Everyone else in the car plays a sport or two at the High School, so I asked if he was going to play Football this year.  His answer was” no.. are you kidding me!  I am going to play water polo.”  That’s great I said, water polo is a pretty tough sport.  I know this young man is a strong swimmer and he will do well.
He asked why I asked about Football.  Well, I told him it doesn’t really matter what sport you play, you should just play a sport in High School.
Sports in High School expand your social circles, they instill in the student athlete a pride in their school and in their fellow class mates.  It breaks down barriers between upper and lower classmen, it ensures that good grades are maintained, and finally it keeps the young person physically fit.  I told the young man that to play football, you don’t really have to be big and strong, you just need to be tough.  You need to be able to hit and take a hit.. the rest can be coached.
My point to him was that he should never shy away from something because he thinks its to hard.
I truly believe that every student should play a sport.  No matter what that sport is, Tennis, Rugby, Volleyball.. what ever, there are so many choices out there and they are all good.
Then last night at our Troop meeting a group of parents and I were talking about how kids are raised these days in that to a certain degree (and those degrees vary) they are over protected.  And to me this is terrible.  Now don’t get me wrong.. I don’t want anything to happen to my three kids, but at the same time a skinned knee is not going to kill them if they are out there playing football in the drive way.  We were joking about bee stings on camp outs one night.. it seemed that whenever our Troop found bees I would always get stung. 
We were backpacking one weekend up to a lake.  One of the Scouts disturbed a bee hive and the route was one.  Scouts took off running in every direction, screaming and shedding gear.  One Scout just fell to his belly and started crying as he got stung on the ankle.  I ran up to him and told him he needed to get out of there.. 9 stings later on me.. I grabbed the young man by the backpack, lifted him and forced him up the trail and out of the way of the stinging bees.  We all reached the lake and counted our stings.. then started laughing about how funny so in so was as he ran or how so in so was throwing his gear all over the place.  It made for a great laugh.  Having said that I know who the Scouts are that have bee sting reactions and none were effected.  The point is, a bee sting generally is not going to kill you and certainly not a reason to not play!  I think in total now my Troop has got me stung about 25 times.
I say all of this because of the reactions that we get from parents when we share the stories… “Oh my goodness.. you can’t get my little precious hurt” and we would never place a Scout in harms way, we are going to let them get dirty, skinned knees, and a few bee stings.  We are going to let them challenge themselves by getting out on the edge and pushing the limits a bit.
We always talk about getting out of our comfort zones.. then taking one more step.  I think that sums up my child hood a bit.
Our curfew was when the street lights came on.  We rode our bikes everywhere and did everything.  We played in the woods, we ran in the fields, and we threw mud clots at each other.  No one really got hurt and we all turned out ok.  We all played sports and did Scouting and we pushed each other to exceed our limits.  We did not know that at the time, but a good old fashioned dare was enough to make you jump off the swing set or ride your bike into a lake.
Boys need to be able to be boys.  They were designed to be rough and tumble and they were built with knees just waiting to be skinned.
I am not sure where this is all going, but it was a great topic last night at our Troop meeting while the Scouts were doing what ever they were doing.  I believe it was a class on Leave no Trace and then a game of capture the flag.


Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Just fun, Leave no trace, Methods, Patrol Method, Risk Management | Leave a comment

SMMBlog Photo Contest

OK its contest time!!!
Email me your best Summer camp picture.. Scouts honor, it should be from this years summer camp.. and you should have actually gone to summer camp.
This contest is an easy one.. just email me your picture.
Email the picture to
The winner will receive a copy of the book “Working the Patrol Method”!

The contest will end at the end of August… so you have a few days to get your best summer camp picture in!

I hope you all had a fantastic Summer camp with your Troops!  Show the rest of us how it went!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Camping, Competition, Just fun, Patrol Method, Summer Camp | Leave a comment

This weeks Poll- The Annual Plan

In this weeks poll I want to know about your Troops annual planning session.
Your choices are:  Totally on the Scouts, meaning the Scouts put together the annual plan and submit it to the Troop committee to receive the support to run the program.  The PLC does the planning.
It’s all about the Adults, meaning the Scouts just take what the adults decide.  The PLC does not do the planning.
Lets go 50/50, meaning Adult input to the PLC and they split the planning responsibility.
As a primer, here is how our Troop handles the annual planning session.  We start our planning at Summer camp.  This is a great opportunity for the patrols to take a look at the previous year and get the most input from the patrol members.  Sometime about mid-week at camp the PLC will meet and discuss the input from the patrols.
After summer camp the PLC will again sit down with all the calendars and look at months, dates, and locations from the next years plan.  I sit in with them on this planning session to answer questions and offer advise when asked.
Once the PLC is satisfied they have a 12 month plan, they bounce it off me and then the SPL and I take the plan to the Troop committee.
The Troop committees job is to say “Great plan, lets support it” and that is what they do.
Our Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders Council does the planning for the year.  That is the way it is supposed to happen, this is their program.  Having them plan their year gives them ownership, tests leadership, and then as the year unfolds and they understand the program, their monthly PLC meetings are better organized and the plan is executed by the Scouts.
It’s not always pretty and often the planning is painful to some… but letting the Scouts run their Troop is the way Baden-Powell intended it.

“The more responsibility the Scoutmaster gives his
patrol leaders, the more they will respond.”- Baden Powell

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scouts, Skills, Summer Camp, training | 3 Comments

Train ’em, Trust ’em,….

I have said this so many times it is almost becoming cliche’.. but I’ll say it again…

Last night the SPL of our Troop held the Patrol Leaders Council meeting.  Because of a work conflict, I knew that I was not going to be able to be there, but two of the Assistant Scoutmasters of the Troop would be attending to maintain a safe environment and open up the meeting hall.
I called into the PLC for my two minutes of points that needed to be passed on from the committee and things that I thought needed to be attended to.  It was fun for the Scouts to be on a conference call with the Scoutmaster.  The SPL put his iPhone on speaker mode and placed it in the middle of the table.
I spoke my piece and asked if any one had questions.. then said good-bye.
Later that evening I got a call from… yeah.. you guessed it.. “Frustrated Dad”.  He wanted to know why I was not at the PLC meeting and who was running this show?  Well the answer to the second part was obviously easy.. The SPL is running the show.  As to why I was not there.. Work, sorry, moving on.
Once again I had to explain to him that I trust the SPL.  I know that he has been trained and mentored well and that we had talked before the meeting so he could bounce he agenda off me.  He will be shooting me an email sometime today also to recap the meeting.  Not that I asked.. he just does it.
When we train the Scouts, trust them to do the right thing, and let them do the leading.. they do pretty darn good.  The decisions that they are making, planning for, and executing are shaping them to be better leaders.  They are practicing communication skills, working with others, and yes learning from mistakes also.
The question was asked, “How can you teach them if you are not there?”  Well, I said, I am there.. I am there for them always.  I will be able to coach and teach the SPL when ever he needs it.  Again, going back to the prep work that the SPL did before the meeting.  That was a good time to coach, and I did. 
Remember that Baden-Powell told us never to do what a boy can do for himself… well that does not stop at setting up his tent and fluffing his pillow.. that is directed at the leadership of the Troop.  Never lead the Troop.. that is why they hold elections and serve.
I had to remind Mr. Frustrated that none of the adults in Boy Scouts have the word “LEADER” on their patch..  That stops at DEN LEADER…

Well, I am proud of our PLC, they held a meeting, that I am sure went well, they are leading the Troop, which I know is going well, and they are having fun.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, comments, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scouting, teamwork | 1 Comment

The Leading Question?

The other night at our Troop meeting I was approached by a frustrated parent.  He asked why I continuously gives the boys the “run around”.  I asked him what he meant, even though I kind of knew where he was going.  He told me he has been sitting back watching over the last few weeks as Scouts come to me with questions.  He wanted to know why I never just answer the questions that the Scouts have.  I asked him to give me an example.  He stated that a young Scout came to me with a question about meals last week, he wanted to know how many they needed to plan for.  Apparently my answer to the Scout was, “Have you talked to your Patrol leader about meal planning for the next camp out?”  The frustrated Dad wanted to know why I didn’t just tell him that he needed to plan 4 meals.
He went on to ask why I didn’t answer another Scouts question when I was asked about an activity.  Again, he says “you pawned it off on the Patrol Leader”.
The straw that broke the camels back however came when a Scout came to you, he said, asking if I could show him how to tie a certain knot.  Frustrated Dad threw his arms up when again I called the Patrol leader over and asked him to show the young Scout how to tie the knot.
“What is it that you do?” he asked.  I teach leadership I replied.
“How is this teaching leadership?” he asked.  Well, its like this.  If I just answer the question, then why do we need Patrol leaders?  If we don’t have Patrol leaders, how does the Scout learn to lead?
When we are camping for example, there are countless opportunities to use leading questions to teach leadership, skills, and camp craft.  Questions that get the Scout to think and act. 
On our last camp out, the Senior Patrol Leader gave direction to the Patrol to camp in a certain area.  One Patrol chose to camp on the slope of the hill on little plateau’s created on a trail.  This was fine as it practiced good leave no trace, but I had a few questions for the Patrol leader regarding placement of a few tents.  I did not tell the PL to move the tents, but did take the opportunity to talk about terrain and ask him what he thinks might happen if it started raining.  We talked about it for a minute and he came up with a solution.  He was hell-bent on not moving the tents.. so they dragged some downed logs over and placed them in front of the tents across the trail creating a break or diverter should it start raining.  He did tell me that they had made sure that the doors of the tent were facing down hill and away from the possible flow of water.
It rained like cats and dogs on Friday night.. and sure enough, their plan of pulling logs over the trail worked, not a single wet sleeping bag. 
It is the leading question that teaches.  Allowing the Scout to think a problem through and not just giving the answer.  This empowering of the Scout to think and act is a valuable lesson to him.  Sending a Scout to his Patrol leader for answers is just as powerful.  It teaches that we have leaders that have purpose.  It makes the leader stronger, because at the point that another Scout comes to him with a question he must do something… lead.  He needs to have the skill sets and knowledge to answer the question, solve the problem or seek help.  These are great tools in teaching leadership.
So frustrated Dad, there is a method to our madness…
And what do I do?  I teach by example.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, Scouts, Skills, training | 1 Comment

Troop Information Board

I am sure that most if not all of you have a nice information board that you use to attract prospective Scouts and their families.  You break it out on recruit nights and open houses, take along to community events, and generally show it off when ever the opportunities arise.
Well, tomorrow we have a crew from the Outdoor channel coming to hang out with our Troop for a week.  They will be taking some of our Scouts on a week long adventure.  This is a huge opportunity for our Troop, our Council, and the Boy Scouts of America to show Scouts and Scouting and tell our story!  We are honored to have been chosen.
But this also became a good time to update our information board.
So, after yard work and some tinkering with the hammock.. I updated (completely overhauled) our information board.
We keep ours up all the time in the Knights of Columbus meeting Hall.  This way our Charter Org. can see what we are up to and know that we are doing the right thing.
With the Troop of the Year trophy sitting prominently in the hall, as well as the Pack of the Year trophy, the Knights sponsored Cub Scout Pack won this year also, having Scouting out front is exactly where we want to be.
If you have an information board, what kind of stuff is on it?  Let us know, drop a comment in the comments section, an email, or feel free to leave a voice mail by calling 503-308-8297.






Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, planning | 1 Comment

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