The Methods of Scouting


Specifically, the BSA endeavors to develop American citizens who are physically, mentally, and emotionally fit; have a high degree of self-reliance as evidenced in such qualities as initiative, courage, and resourcefulness; have personal values based on religious concepts; have the desire and skills to help others; understand the principles of the American social, economic, and governmental systems; are knowledgeable about and take pride in their American heritage and understand our nation’s role in the world; have a keen respect for the basic rights of all people; and are prepared to participate in and give leadership to American society.

The eight methods of the Scouting movement are the means through which the Aims of Scouting are achieved:

  1. Scouting Ideals
  2. Patrols
  3. Outdoors
  4. Advancement
  5. Personal Growth
  6. Adult Association
  7. Leadership Development
  8. Uniform

The aims of the movement can be attained without these methods, but it wouldn’t be Scouting. Likewise, these methods can produce quality individuals without the aims. But, again that wouldn’t be Scouting. Scouting is in fact a combination of these aims and these methods.

Lets look at each of these methods in turn for a little more explanation:

Scouting Ideals

The ideals are those outlined in the Scout Oath and Law, the Scout Motto and Slogan, and the concept of “Scout Spirit”. The ideals define what a Scout should strive to be: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent, mentally awake, morally straight, physically fit, always prepared. The Boy Scout measures himself against these ideals and continually tries to improve. The goals are high, and, as he reaches for them, he has some control over what and who he becomes.

This method permeates everything Scouts do, defining acceptable behavior, challenging the Scout to do his best, and even to do better than his best. Scout spirit describes the level of commitment a Scout has toward these ideals, and challenges him to do what needs to be done.



The Patrol Method Participants

The patrol method gives Boy Scouts an experience in group living and participating citizenship. It places responsibility on young shoulders and teaches boys how to accept it. The patrol method allows Scouts to interact in small groups where they can easily relate to each other. These small groups determine troop activities through their elected representatives.

The Patrol is the basic unit of Scouting. It is a perfectly sized group of Scouts with a common purpose. When properly formed, the Patrol is more than a group; it’s a team and each member has a job to do. In a Patrol, the Scout first begins learning about citizenship, making decisions, and doing things for himself. He counts on the other members of his Patrol to do their part, just as they count on him to do his.

Membership in a Patrol leads to opportunities for leadership, so this method is also important to other methods in this list. Everything in Scouting can and should be done using the Patrol method, and Patrols should be more than just a list of names. The group should be real, and it should have real things to do. Its leaders should be real leaders, with real authority.



Boy Scouting is designed to take place outdoors. It is in the outdoor setting that Scouts share responsibilities and learn to live with one another. It is here that the skills and activities practiced at troop meetings come alive with purpose. Being close to nature helps Boy Scouts gain an appreciation for God’s handiwork and humankind’s place in it. The outdoors is the laboratory for Boy Scouts to learn ecology and practice conservation of nature’s resources.

Doing things outdoors are what Scouting is all about. Putting the “Out” in Scout”! In the course of doing the things Scouts do, a boy cannot help but go into the outdoors. In fact, it’s impossible to properly conduct a Scouting program without going outdoors. As much as possible, and as often as possible, Scouts should get out of buildings. They should follow the dirt trails, camp in the woods, swim in the lake, and all of the other things boys have done for millennia.

A Scout program that doesn’t include going into the outdoors is not much of a program. It can’t be much fun either. Scouting is not school. We don’t learn things in Scouting by sitting in a classroom – we learn them by going out and doing them!



Boy Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Boy Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Boy Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.

The advancement method is nearly as pervasive as the ideals of Scouting. Advancement gives the Scout things to do when they go outdoors, and it gives Patrols something to work together on. Advancement also contributes to a Scout’s personal growth, provides opportunities for leadership and adult associations, and a reason to go outside.

Advancement in Scouting is specifically designed to present every boy with a big challenge, broken up into smaller and smaller challenges. A Scout learns to set goals, develop plans for meeting those goals, to motivate himself to do what needs to be done, to always try his best and keep trying, and even that his perception of what he can do is often wrong. The Scout learns about his personal abilities and limitations, and ways to overcome those limitations and take advantage of those abilities.


Personal Growth

As Boy Scouts plan their activities and progress toward their goals, they experience personal growth. The Good Turn concept is a major part of the personal growth method of Boy Scouting. Boys grow as they participate in community service projects and do Good Turns for others. Probably no device is so successful in developing a basis for personal growth as the daily Good Turn. The religious emblems program also is a large part of the personal growth method. Frequent personal conferences with his Scoutmaster help each Boy Scout to determine his growth toward Scouting’s aims.

Much of what we do in Scouting involves boys facing unfamiliar territory and learning to cope with it. This is what we call personal growth. Every Scout develops greater confidence through experience and advancement. He learns to have confidence in himself; to challenge himself, and to learn from his failures.

Every step along the way, a Scout is faced with a challenge that has to be overcome. In the process, he learns to look at himself differently. He stops saying “I can’t” and begins to look for ways to say, “I can.” As his confidence grows he looks for greater responsibilities and challenges. He learns to make real decisions.


Adult Association

From time immemorial youth have looked to adults for guidance. Sons look to parents for an example to live by. Students look to teachers for knowledge. In Scouting, this tradition continues. Adults provide the living example to Scouts of the ideals of Scouting. More importantly, adults provide the impetus for a Scout’s personal growth and self-confidence.

Adults also provide the safety net that allows Scouting to work. Through guidance and support adults in Scouting create the environment the Scouts need to take advantage of these methods. The Scout learns to work with other adults and develops the skills needed to navigate the adult world.


Leadership Development

The Boy Scout program encourages boys to learn and practice leadership skills. Every Boy Scout has the opportunity to participate in both shared and total leadership situations. Understanding the concepts of leadership helps a boy accept the leadership role of others and guides him toward the citizenship aim of Scouting.

Scouts learn to lead themselves. In Scouting, adults aren’t there to lead the youth. They are there to guide the youth through the process of leading themselves. This process begins in the Patrol where Scouts have their first opportunity to choose their own leaders. As the Scout’s experience grows, his opportunities for leadership increase.

Leadership in Scouting includes making decisions and guiding the troop and Patrol, planning the program, and conducting meetings. Scouts learn to lead by leading, and they develop leadership skills by learning to follow their chosen leaders.



The uniform makes the Boy Scout troop visible as a force for good and creates a positive youth image in the community. Boy Scouting is an action program, and wearing the uniform is an action that shows each Boy Scout’s commitment to the aims and purposes of Scouting. The uniform gives the Boy Scout identity in a world brotherhood of youth who believe in the same ideals. The uniform is practical attire for Boy Scout activities and provides a way for Boy Scouts to wear the badges that show what they have accomplished. People seeing a boy in a Scout uniform expect someone of good character who is prepared to the best of his ability to help those around him.

The uniform has always been an important part of being a Scout. In this day and age, many would have you believe that the uniform really isn’t all that important; that a Scout is as much a Scout in T-shirt and jeans as he is in khaki and green. That’s partly true, but the uniform is more than a set of clothes. It’s more than simply a place to display achievements. It is a symbol of the boy’s commitment to Scouting – his acceptance of Scouting’s ideals and willingness to live by them.

Scouts who do not wear a uniform usually do not have a complete understanding of Scouting or the commitment they have been asked to make. Many Scouts will tell you that the uniform doesn’t look good, it doesn’t fit well, or it isn’t very good for outdoor activities. In some respects, this is true, but they are superficial concerns. Perhaps they don’t understand that the uniform is a symbol of their commitment and, not wearing the uniform is a sign that they lack that commitment.


The Right Method For The Job

Scouting’s methods represent the tools we use, the path we take in reaching for our goals. In every Scouting activity, some element of each of these methods will be evident. Sometimes this will be obvious; often it will not. But the methods are where we concentrate our attention and effort. A balanced combination of these will lead us to the aims.

Some would say that the methods really aren’t that important, that it doesn’t matter what methods you use as long as you have the same aims and concentrate on those. That’s not necessarily true. In any effort, if you concentrate all of your attention and effort on the goal you want to achieve, you can’t be paying much attention to how you’re getting there and whether the path you’re taking will lead to success. Imagine trying to navigate a maze by maintaining your focus on the exit. No matter what you do, you’ll soon find yourself lost in the maze.