Thorns and Roses and PLCs



One of the most valuable activities crews do at Philmont Scout Ranch is something called “Thorns and Roses.” This is a guided reflection crews are encouraged to use each evening before heading to their tents. The basic idea is to go around the circle and let each person describe any “thorns” (bad experiences) or “roses” (good experiences) from the day. This is not a gripe session, but rather an opportunity to debrief and to find ways to improve in the future. (In fact, some crews add “buds” to the mix; these are goals for the future.)

The beauty of “Thorns and Roses” is that it gives everyone a chance to reflect on the day in a relaxed, non-confrontational environment. It also gives equal emphasis to what went right and what went wrong. Done well, it can reduce conflict within a crew and ensure that each day goes better than the one before.

I bring up “Thorns and Roses” because I fear that many troop don’t do a very good job of reflection and debriefing when they’re not on a high-adventure trip. Think about your troop. Do you take five or ten minutes at the beginning of each PLC meeting to talk about how last month’s outing went? Do your Scoutmaster and your senior patrol leader chat after each troop meeting about what went right and what went wrong? If not, how can you ensure more roses than thorns in the future?

To paraphrase George Santayana, those who forget the mistakes of the last campout are doomed to repeat them.


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