The BPSA’s Scout program is known as Pathfinders. This section is open to boys and girls beginning at age 11 and going through age 17 (grades 6 through 12). The emphasis will be in training through hands-on, outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, canoeing, and backpacking, as well as community-service projects. Pathfinders are organized into Troops that operate in Patrols of 6 to 8 members, led by a (youth) Patrol Leader who shares responsibility with an adult leader (called the Scoutmaster) for discipline, activity planning, and training the less-experienced members.
The Pathfinder Troop should meet as a unit once per month along with the rest of the Scout Group (not counting outdoor excursions and community service outings), and be led by the Troop Leader (Scoutmaster) with help from the Assistant Scoutmaster (these should be of the opposite sex if the Troop is co-ed). At the Troop Meetings, the Pathfinders are encouraged, after the opening ceremony, announcements, etc., to break out into their smaller units (Patrols) to work on whatever it is they’re learning at the time or to plan their next outing. Patrols should also meet separately once or twice per month, separate from the Troop meeting. All Pathfinder meetings (Troop or individual Patrols) should be done with as minimal adult interference or interaction as possible. The adult Scoutmasters are there to supervise, but not to lead, the Pathfinder Scouts.
- Getting started: For a Pathfinder Troop, the Pathfinder leader, who is called the Scoutmaster (SM, separate from the GSM), should plan an informational night for youth and parents. This should be done in advance and to try to drum up LOTS of interest. Try to get a good-sized group of interested kids there, hopefully 20–30.
- The Scoutmaster should then with those kids separately (sans parents) at the end of that meeting—asking questions, engaging them, with the goal of determining which are the sharpest, most responsible, enthusiastic, etc. From that group, 6 to 8 of them should be selected for the Golden Arrow Patrol. The names and contact information for everyone else should be recorded, and they should be told that the Troop will reconvene at a later time, once the Golden Arrow Patrol is trained and ready to lead.
- The Scoutmaster then spends the next 4–6 months training those selected as a Patrol, with the Scoutmaster acting as Patrol Leader (not Scoutmaster). A couple of them may be excused for various reasons; but in the end, the Scoutmaster should have spent that time training them all the way through Second Class.
- Afterward, the Scoutmaster might consider keeping the Golden Arrow Patrol indefinitely for high adventure-type outings that the rest of the PFs are not quite ready for.
- Next, the Scoutmaster (SM) picks the Patrol Leaders (PLs) and Assistant Patrol Leaders (APLs) from that Golden Arrow Patrol and recalls all the other youth/parents from the original meeting, plus any newly recruited youth & parents. After that 4–6 month wait, those who show back up are definitely committed to the program. Those who don’t show back up probably weren’t that committed to begin with.
- At this new meeting, the Scoutmaster should instruct the PLs to pick members for their Patrols by meeting with these others, engaging them, asking questions, etc.
- The Court of Honor is made up of the Patrol Leaders and the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) with the SM only acting as the “veto” advisor.
- You can sometimes have the Assistant Patrol Leaders on the Court of Honor as well (esp. for smaller Troops).
- After the PLs & APLs are in place, have the Court of Honor get together to vote on which members of the Golden Arrow Patrol have earned the Golden Arrow badge. Plan a ceremony to award the badge (preferably before the entire Group).
- If the Pathfinder Troop has been going for a while and the Scoutmaster doesn’t want to upset the apple cart, then she or he should consider selecting the best and brightest from your Troop for the Golden Arrow Patrol, and train them separately (by appointing another available Rover, an ASM, or possibly the GSM, as PL), in addition to regular Group and Troop meetings. Maintain the status quo in the general membership while training your PLs without the big distractions.
- After the Troop has been operating for a while, new Patrols may form. The SM will then need to appoint a new Patrol Leader and APL, who will then go through Golden Arrow Patrol Leader Training on the side. Keep in mind that it is not desirable that a Troop consist of more than 6 Patrols (48 Scouts max).
All adult leaders (SMs and ASMs) will need to register with BPSA as Rover Scouts and will need to complete a Brownsea Training Course within their first year of membership. A minimum of two registered adult leaders is required per section. Parents from the Troop may step up to help lead on occasion, but they may only do so if accompanied by a registered leader (SM or ASM). These leaders will need to be of the opposite sex if the Troop or Patrol is co-ed.
The Pathfinder program is based upon Robert Baden-Powell‘s book, Scouting for Boys, and is similar in appearance to programs that were in common use nearly 100 years ago.
When a Pathfinder turns 18, s/he is encouraged to continue their Scouting career by becoming Rover Scouts.
Pathfinder Handbook - BPSA-developed handbook for the Pathfinder section. Click here to order a bound version.
Scouting for Boys - The definitive manual for Scouts. This is the book that started Scouting. Complete with illustrations by B-P. Originally published in installments every other Wednesday from January 15, 1908. The book consists of introductions for Scouters, 28 “Campfire Yarns” for Scouts, and a summary. Also available in paperback.
Further required reading for Scoutmasters:
Scoutmaster’s First Year - The 1948 edition of this popular and informative manual for new Scout Leaders
Aids to Scoutmastership - The fundamental manual for Scout Leaders. Describes the purpose and methods of Scouting. Complete with original illustrations. (1945 “Brotherhood Edition”)
How to Run a Troop – Gilcraft’s guide to running a Scout Troop
The Patrol System - The 1917 book by Capt. the Honourable Roland Philipps regarding the most important topic in the Scout section – the Patrol.
Introduction to Traditional Scouting – Detailed information about our program and group structure
For Patrol Leaders:
Golden Arrow Training Handbook - Training Manual for Patrol Leaders (1960 first edition)