The really successful Patrols are those which are able to hold Patrol meetings at some time other than during Troop meetings. A regular schedule for Patrol meetings will make all your ambitions for your Patrol come true. One of your main jobs as a Patrol is to make these meetings profitable, so that every fellow in the Patrol will gain the Scout experience from them.
It's at Patrol meetings that you have a chance to instruct your boys in Scout requirements, and help them to understand the meaning of the Scout promise and law. Its here you choose the activities on which you want to concentrate. Here you plan big things for the future. It's here that you train yourself and your boys for the jobs ahead. It's at Patrol meetings that your Scouts begin to pick up Patrol spirit—begin to stick together as a gang.
You have four main points to consider: where? when? what? how?
It is not necessary and perhaps it is not even desirable to have the Patrol meetings indoors. It shouldn't be difficult to find some outdoor spot where you can have your meetings. The backyard or corner of the garden. In a large city you may be able to meet in a section of a playground, or somewhere in a city park. If you live in a small town, it should be easy for you to locate a place on the outskirts of town where you can get together for your meetings.
Some of your meetings, however, will probably have to be indoors. Start off by having them in the homes of the boys. You may invite them to your own home for the first indoor meeting and later arrange to rotate the meetings among the homes of the other Patrol members.
In addition to having some place to meet, there are two other good reasons for meeting in the different homes; you get to know the parents of your boys, and the parents get to know you and the other members of the Patrol. When the Patrol has become acquainted with all the homes, and the parents have come to know the Patrol members, then is the time to get ambitious and to think of a permanent place for your indoor meetings. A real Patrol will go all out to have a Den of it's own. It may not be much of a place—a small shack, a corner of a garage or a basement, a room in the attic or part of a loft. With such a place you'll keep your Patrol meetings humming with work on the Den—painting it, decorating it, making knot boards and charts and many other things to hang on the walls. In doing all of this, you will add to the spirit of your Patrol.
Ideally, the Patrol should hold weekly Patrol meetings but, if for a very good reason the ideal cannot be achieved, you should hold at least two Patrol meetings a month.
Get together with your boys and settle on the best day of the week and the best time for your meetings.
First of all, pick a day that doesn't conflict with Troop meetings.
Any day of the week may be acceptable to your boys. Friday may be a specially good day—there is no homework to do and it's not just a matter of Friday evening—what about Friday afternoon? There is no law that says a Patrol meeting must be held in the evening. You also have all day Saturday—but that day is better used for hikes than for meetings.
When you have found the best time for your meetings, stick to that time. If it is decided that it's to be 7 o'clock on Thursday night, keep it 7 o'clock and every Thursday night in the future. In that way, there will not be any confusion. Your boys will know that Thursday evening is Patrol evening—their parents will know it, and everyone can plan accordingly.
Be punctual. Whatever the day or the hour, be punctual.
What should the meeting contain? Perhaps this leads to another question—what do you expect to accomplish?
Look ahead: You want your Patrol to be the best in the Troop in regards to Scouting knowledge—that means training in all kinds of Scoutcraft. You want to be tops in Scout spirit—that requires imagination for firing the enthusiasm of the boys, and inspiring them. You want your boys to learn to do things—to work hard when there's work to be done, to play hard when play's the thing. And then, there will be Patrol business and planning for the future.
Patrol activities can be roughly divided into six categories:
You can line up all these activities into a beautiful program, yet your Patrol meeting maybe a complete fizzle. It isn't just what goes into a meeting it's how the things are presented and how the meeting is run that counts.
For a successful Patrol meeting, you'll need to pay attention to these four points:
Ingredients Of The Meeting
Have a short opening ceremony.
After this, do some checking, see who is in attendance and if you take Patrol dues at your Patrol meeting, check those off also. Don't spend too much time on this section of your program however. If there is any correspondence or announcements, then this is the time to do it.
Coaching: This period is the most important of the Patrol meeting. It requires more advance preparation on your part than any other period of the meeting—because you can't coach unless you are thoroughly familiar with the subject yourself. Work it out with your Second and together line up the work and decide on your approach. Find out what coaching your fellows need, then look up the requirements and questions. Then have lots of demonstrations and practice. Have the fellows work in twos wherever possible.
Projects: This period of the Patrol may be occupied by a Scoutcraft project or a handicraft project. The Scoutcraft project is a logical follow-up to the coaching you have just given.
Handicraft Projects: You should always have a few handicraft projects lined up to work at during Patrol meetings. Some of these may be "quickies" that will take fifteen minutes to a half an hour or so. Others will be more ambitious and will stretch over several meetings; making your own equipment, working on the den in some way.
Plans: Here is a chance to discuss your ideas for the future of your Patrol and to get the fellows enthusiastic. In all planning, remember that you are the leader, not the boss of your outfit. You are part of the Patrol—and so is every other fellow.
Plan ahead—but don't plan too far ahead. Know definitely what you are going to do for the next two or three months, and have a general idea of what you expect to accomplish after that but don't spend all of your time planning and dreaming of the Patrol's future. Decide on the things that are immediately ahead, get your Scribe to make a record of your decision—then swing into action.
Play: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". It makes a pretty dull Patrol too.
There are all sorts of games that can be used, especially in small areas,
Singing: Learn new songs for the Troop campfires.
Develop half a dozen good ear-splitting yells and practice them often so that you can deliver them with pep and enthusiasm. After your formal section of the program then have a closing ceremony.
Running A Patrol Meeting
You've already discussed with your fellows the kind of activities they want. Also, you know the training they need if they are to move ahead in the Troop. Now its a matter of picking that which will be of the greatest benefit to all the fellows.
You may run into the problem of having a number of boys just starting in Scouting. Other fellows in the Patrol may be on their way towards First Class. You need to keep everybody occupied and happy. So—use the buddy system. Have those who already know their Scouting teach the new fellows.
When you have chosen the different activities, the next step is to arrange them in an effective program. Sit down with your Second, with a sheet before you and start filling in with activities you have decided to use. Then estimate the time you need for each of them. Jot down the approximate time for starting and stopping each activity. Such a schedule will help you to keep things moving.
Go back over the program and figure out what preparations and what equipment will be needed.
For work in signaling, for instance, you may need to make up a buzzer, write out a few messages, have a paper and pencil on hand. Write out a list of equipment needed and make yourself and your Second or someone else in your Patrol responsible for bringing the different things.
The proof of the planning and preparations for a Patrol meeting is a meeting itself. Have everything ready in advance—then dive right into the program.
It's an art to run a good meeting, but fortunately it is an art that can be acquired by any Patrol Leader who applies himself to it.
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Last modified: August 20, 2012.