Learning for Life

Learning for Life

Infobox WorldScouting
owner = Boy Scouts of America
type = organization

name = Learning for Life
headquarters = Irving, Texas
country = United States
f-date = 1992
members = 1,750,767 youth
61,041 adults (2006) [cite web |url=http://marketing.scouting.org/research/demog/02-030.pdf |title=2006 BSA Year in Review |accessdate=2008-01-05 |publisher=Boy Scouts of America]
website = [http://www.learning-for-life.org/ Learning for Life - Exploring]

Learning for Life (LFL) is an United States school and work-site based program that is a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America. It utilizes programs designed for schools and community-based organizations that are designed to prepare youth to for the complexities of contemporary society and to enhance their self-confidence, motivation, and self-esteem. [cite web |url=http://www.learning-for-life.org/ |title=Learning for Life - Exploring |accessdate=2006-01-15]

Learning for Life is not considered a traditional Scouting program; it does not use the Scout Promise, Scout Law uniforms or insignia of traditional Scouting. All Learning for Life programs are open to youth and adults without restriction based on gender, residence, sexual orientation, or other considerations, other than minimum age requirements. Some Explorer posts may require background checks and satisfactory school transcripts as conditions of membership.


chool based programs

Learning for Life is a series of school-based programs designed to support schools and educational organizations in helping youth with character education, life skills, building self-esteem, and developing ethical decision-making skills.

The participant program categories, each with its own Learning for Life curriculum developed by the national office, consists of six programs covering kindergarten through Grade 12:
* Seekers: kindergarten through second grade
* Discoverers: third and fourth grade
* Challengers: fifth and sixth grade
* Champions: special needs
* Builders: seventh and eighth grade
* Navigators: high school grades

The first three programs concentrate on eight character traits: respect, responsibility, honesty/trust, caring and fairness, perseverance, self-discipline, courage, and citizenship. The two programs for older children continue this and add career preparedness. Champions concentrates on self-concept, personal and social skills, and life skills.

Curriculum used for these programs is developed for lesson plans developed over the years by teachers and school volunteers. It was originally modeled on lesson plans adapted from Scouting meeting plans, but has been revised substantially so as to have little current resemblance to Scout meetings.

Learning for Life programs emphasize the need to reinforce self-esteem and recognize student achievement and participation through recognition programs. Most of the Learning for Life programs include the use of wall charts, recognition stickers, iron-on emblems, and certificates produced by the national Learning for Life office.

There are also recognitions for schools, principals, teachers, and volunteers who successfully implement the programs. Local councils may recognize outstanding adults with the Golden Apple Award.


Infobox Awards
"Big E" logo

Exploring is the worksite-based program of Learning for Life, and focuses on involving teenagers in clubs, called posts, that allow young people to learn about possible careers, form friendships, develop leadership skills, and enjoy activities with like-minded teens and adults. Each post is open to young men and women who are 15 to 20 years old. Teens who are 14 and have graduated from eighth grade are also eligible to join. All Explorers (teenage post members) are under the supervision of adults who serve as post advisors, but the Explorers elect their own peer leaders to serve as post officers. The decision of course, is not final. The post advisors will always have the final decision on who will lead the post.

Exploring's purpose is to provide experiences that help young people mature and to prepare them to become responsible and caring adults. The result is a program of activities that helps youth pursue their special interests, grow, and develop.

Typical Explorer posts include groups of teenagers specializing in law enforcement, fire and emergency service, health careers, engineering, aviation, skilled trades, and technology. The majority of Explorer posts have an Explorer uniform that they have especially designed for wear during formal meetings and community service activities, a long-standing tradition dating from when posts were part of the BSA.

Some Explorer posts gather together for national Explorer conferences and regional activities, sometimes called academies or musters. The law Explorers have an annual National Explorer Mock Trail Competition. Some BSA councils host activities at which local Explorer posts participate.

The National Learning for Life office administers college scholarships for eligible Explorers who apply using written applications. The office also creates a number of recognitions presented by local councils for Exploring adult volunteers and community organizations, the most prestigious of which is the William Spurgeon Award. The Learning for Life office also promotes the Young American Award which recognizes outstanding young women and young men who excel in academics, sports and hobbies, community life, and civic service, and these awards (which include a scholarship) are presented at the annual meeting of the BSA National Council.


During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, over 40 BSA councils organized innovative, non-traditional programs called In-School Scouting. These units were in public schools (usually in low-income neighborhoods), where the schools invited the BSA and other partner organizations such as the Girl Scouts of the USA and Camp Fire USA to provide Scouting programs as part of the school curriculum, usually for an hour a week during a daytime elective period. There were some critics who complained that these programs were innovative to the point of not being "real Scouting," and there were occasionally difficulties in maintaining partnerships between these youth-serving agencies in delivering school programs to both boys and girls. This led the BSA to explore options regarding delivery of youth programs in public school settings, and a two-year effort including grass-roots task forces lead to the development of Learning for Life, including its name.

The Learning for Life subsidiary was launched in 1991 by the BSA National Council to continue serving youth through public schools and educational organizations with specially developed curriculum separate from traditional Scouting, and with distinctive programs that no longer used traditional Scouting methods like the Scout Promise and Scout Law. Participants in Learning for Life programs would be open to both sexes at all program levels (unlike Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting), which allows the BSA to provide in-school programs if the traditional girls' agencies are not able or willing to do so. All existing programs called In-School Scouting, as well as the large number of Career Awareness Explorer posts (where youth participation consisted primarily of career seminars during school hours) were rolled into Learning for Life. This had the immediate effect of dropping the membership totals of the BSA, but had no significant effect on the total numbers of youth served by the BSA when combining membership totals of traditional Scouting with the youth served totals of Learning for Life.

When a number of government agencies and community leaders began to seriously question the appropriateness of those agencies continuing to charter Explorer posts, BSA decided to reorganize the structure of Exploring programs. The decision was made in 1998 to separate work-based Exploring programs from those that were primarily focused on traditional BSA programming, hobbies, outdoors, and sports. The work-based Explorer posts and their membership was transferred to the Learning for Life subsidiary, and the posts that were traditional to hobbies, outdoors, and sports were renamed Venturing Crews and Sea Scout Ships, and remained as part of the traditional BSA organization. Both posts and crews continue to serve the same age-groups of young women and men ages 15-20, but over the years, the terminology and methods of the Exploring and Venturing programs have evolved in separate directions, with Exploring continuing in a very non-traditional direction.

Almost every one of the 308 BSA Councils has at least one Explorer post, and the majority have Learning for Life programs that are school-based groups. These groups and posts have youth who are described as participants and members of Learning for Life, but are not members of the BSA nor subject to membership restrictions such as gender requirements, other than minimum age requirements. The health and safety policies of Learning for Life are very similar to those used with BSA programs.


Non-profit status and funding

Although the Boy Scouts of America organized Learning For Life as an independent subsidiary of their own organization, the Learning for Life subsidiary does not have a separate 501(c)3 non-profit status to share with local Learning for Life offices under the management of local BSA councils. When writing for grants to promote the independent program, the local council Learning For Life organizations must use their local BSA Council tax identification numbers when filling out grant applications for funding. This occasionally leads to difficulties with grant-making agencies that do not desire to affiliate with the BSA due to the BSA prohibition on membership by atheists, agnostics or homosexuals.


Nationally, Learning For Life is a separate entity within the Boy Scouts of America's umbrella. The Learning for Life organization consists of a leadership team of national Learning for Life volunteers, including specialized committees for the various Exploring programs, and supported by seasoned senior executive professionals who usually come from the ranks of BSA commissioned professionals. These committees and professional develop the curriculum and national programs for Learning for Life, and advise and provide support to the Learning for Life field offices across the United States and overseas.

Within local BSA councils, Learning for Life groups are supported through special committees of Learning for Life volunteers. The day-to-day support of Learning for Life and Exploring programs is provided by the council through one or more certified executives, either full-time Learning for Life professionals or equally often, through BSA commissioned professionals. These professionals, whether certified Learning for Life executives or BSA commissioned executives, are employees of the local BSA council, and are supervised and evaluated ultimately by a Scout Executive commissioned by the BSA National Council. This sometimes results in difficulties for Learning for Life executives who are interested in promoting the Learning for Life programs, but have philosophical difficulties with the BSA as a whole.

Local Learning for Life Marketing and Promotions

Learning for Life on a council level has its own version of a Key-3 (chair, vice chair and program executive), and is responsible for creating its own subcommittees (finance, marketing, program, membership), its overall activities are tied into the BSA council it operates as a part of. The BSA National Council however encourages local councils to market its Learning for Life programs completely separately from its traditional BSA programs, and so Learning for Life printed materials and internet links have little reference to the local BSA council. As a result, many Learning for Life executives have been attributed as remarking that "Learning for Life is the best kept secret in Scouting".


*Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development; Great Transitions, Preparing Adolescents for a New Century, page 49
*Peter L. Benson, Ph.D.; Judy Galbraith, M.A.; and Pamela Espeland; What Teens Need to Succeed; Search Institute and Free Spirit Publishing, 1998

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