In the Boy Scouts of America scouting program, there are 8 "Methods" used to achieve our goals of citizenship, character, and fitness. St. Thomas Troop 8 has an additional goal of "learning," which also sets us apart. How each troop implements the 8 methods and what emphasis they place on each determines the character of the troop. Some troops, for example, will place a larger emphasis on the outdoor adventure program, while others will focus more on uniforming and advancement/award programs.
The Eight Methods Are:
The ideals and values contained in the Scout Oath and Law. The St. Thomas Troop 8 program is firmly grounded in ideals and values, but in a quiet way. While we use the Scout Oath and Law as tools to get boys to think about such things, our view of ethics and values in the Catholic tradition goes well beyond such simplistic sayings. We quietly encourage boys to deepen their knowledge and thought about such issues, and explore their own faith.
Scouting provides a wonderful venue for boys to learn from "role models" of older men and women who are not their parents, and who can be at once friends and mentors. Troop 8 values this adult mentoring very highly, and actively seeks out younger 20- and 30-something leaders because the boys can identify with them. Boys and adult leaders are usually on a first-name basis, and form lasting friendships. More than a third of our former scouts found their careers because of the examples and mentoring of adult leaders in the troop.
Probably the most recognized feature of the scouting program, the Advancement Method sets goals and challenges for boys to work toward in order to get recognition through higher rank or "merit badges" that demonstrate special skill. Troop 8 uses the BSA Advancement program and has a number of boys who make Eagle Scout, but it would not be considered a central feature of our program. Our style is to work more toward internal than external motivation, and to be very rigorous about demanding high performance before awards are given. Troops that emphasize Advancement will have their program planned around getting badges, and a well-defined system to guide boys to earn things in order and on-time (and often as rapidly as possible).
In Boy Scouting, the youth grow by taking responsibility. Troop 8 emphasizes youth leadership very strongly. Our youth choose the activities, set the budget for the year, determine safety plans, do instruction, and run the show. Boys who graduate from the program are usually so accustomed to leading that they are able to step directly into outdoor guiding jobs. Troops that do not emphasize youth leadership as much will have adults doing some or all of these tasks.
One of the ways that Scouting teaches youth leaders is by breaking the troop up into smaller gangs of boys, led by one or more Patrol Leaders. Patrols can be compared to "houses" like Gryffindor in the Harry Potter novels - groupings of boys of similar character who live and work together, with older boys serving as "prefects" and examples. Troop 8 runs a very well-developed patrol method structure, which keeps patrols intact from the moment a boy joins. Troops that do not emphasize patrol method will establish shorter-term, same-age, or temporary patrols for logistics reasons, but the boys won't really get to know each other or rely on patrol leadership.
The outdoors is our playground and adventures are our motivation in Scouting. Troop 8 is extremely active in the outdoors, with a year-round schedule. A number of our leaders have National Outdoor Leadership School experience or serve as leaders in the University of Michigan's Outdoor Adventure program. We were the first troop in the area to implement Leave-No-Trace camping practice, and introduce boys to "technical" outdoor skills ranging from rock and ice climbing to telemark skiing to whitewater kayaking. Troops that do not emphasize the outdoors as much will tend to run monthly car-camping outings to local parks and scout "camporees," and perhaps not run a full program in the summer or winter months.
One of the things that distinguishes scouts worldwide is a uniform. The uniform helps identify us as brothers and sisters in a common movement no matter what troop or nation we live in, or how well-off we are. Troop 8 uses the scout uniform for some events, especially when we're with other scouts or involved in a formal activity, but we would not be considered a strongly uniformed troop. It is not uncommon for boys to come from school or sports out of uniform for a meeting, and on outings we expect appropriate outdoor-wear rather than the uniform. A more strongly uniformed troop will insist on more rigid uniform compliance in a military-style fashion, including wearing full uniform for travel and some camping.
Well, this isn't really a BSA method, but it seems to belong here. Troop 8 encourages boys to participate in a variety of service with the troop. Some of that is service to younger scouts within the program, but we also do a variety of work for different community agencies. On the scale of troops, we'd be in the middle of the road in terms of service, with a few more active service troops doing major long-term projects or specializing in things like disaster relief.
Compared to other troops, you'll find that we offer one of the most diverse and challenging outdoor programs, drawing from the curriculum and methods of the National Outdoor Leadership School and the Experiential Education Association. We place a greater emphasis on skills development and learning than many troops, and work very hard to use youth participant leadership in patrols to help boys develop not only skills, but judgment and decision-making confidence. Our adult leaders are dedicated friends and mentors. Your son will be exposed to the best in outdoor ethic and skills, with a quiet but firm subtext of personal responsibilities and values.
However, we are not an Advancement-focused program, and do not offer "rapid advancement" the way some troops do. We do not participate in the BSA's First Class Rank in a year program. We have a number of Eagle Scouts, but they work long and hard to earn Eagle by age 17, representing the achievement of a talented young man. And if you're looking for a military-style approach to uniforming and oaths/laws, we will not be a good fit.