Learning for Life

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Learning for Life
Learning for Life.svg
Owner Boy Scouts of America
Headquarters Irving, Texas
Country United States
Founded 1992
  • 418,484 youth
  • 1,891 adults
  • 1,901 groups (2013)[1]
Learning for Life - Exploring
 Scouting portal

Learning for Life (LFL) is a United States school and work-site based youth 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 for the complexities of contemporary society and to enhance their self-confidence, motivation, and self-esteem, and for careers.[2]

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, religion, 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.


School based programs[edit]

Learning for Life is a series of school-based programs for use by schools and educational organizations in the areas of 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:

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 based on 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 that it currently has little 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.


"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. The Explorers elect their own peer leaders to serve as post officers, subject to the approval of the adult advisors.

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 a field such as 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 the time when Exploring was a traditional BSA program.

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 Trial Competition. Some BSA councils host activities at which local Explorer posts participate.

The National Learning for Life office administers college scholarships for eligible Explorers, based on 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 H. Spurgeon III 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. 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 led 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 (Boy Scouts of America) 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 294 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.

Youth membership
Year 2010[3] 2011[4] 2012[5] 2013[6] 2014[7]
Exploring 113,180 112,783 116,584 114,894 110,853
Learning for Life 664,063 511,359 475,280 418,484 422,139

New fee structure for Councils[edit]

In 2008, the National Office of Learning for Life decided to change the registration of Learning for Life groups, excepting Explorer Posts, from a per-person, fee-based structure to a council-wide license. The license is free to councils who offer only Exploring, but requires Councils offering the in-school Learning for Life program to pay a license fee according to a sliding scale effective October 2008. The license-fee schedule begins at US$500.00 for 1-199 youth, US$1,000 for 200-500, and graduates in increments of US$2,500 for each additional 500 youth, until at 3,000 youth it costs an additional US$5,000 per 1000 additional youth. This change from a per-person fee to a license fee based on total council enrollment requires councils to make budget decisions on keeping or not keeping Learning for Life programs (besides Exploring) in place, increasing or reducing the number of youth served as needed or desired, or in some cases discontinue altogether the council's in-school Learning for Life programs.


Non-profit status and funding[edit]

Although the national Boy Scouts of America organized Learning For Life as an independent subsidiary of their own organization, in the local Boy Scouts of America councils the Learning for Life program does not usually have a separate 501(c)3 non-profit status. When writing for grants, the local Learning For Life organizations often must use their local BSA Council tax identification numbers. This occasionally leads to difficulties with grant-making agencies that do not desire to indirectly support the BSA due to its policies (see Boy Scouts of America membership controversies).[8]


Nationally, Learning For Life is an affiliate of 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. 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.

Local Learning for Life Marketing and Promotions[edit]

Learning for Life on a council level may have its own version of a Key-3 (chair, vice chair and program executive), and in those cases will be responsible for creating its own subcommittees (finance, marketing, program, membership).

Loss of Explorer Posts[edit]

Several cities and counties (most notability The City of Los Angeles[9] required their police and fire departments to shut down their Explorer Posts, due to BSA's refusal to require other [locally chartering] organizations to relinquish certain rights to preference. There is no such ban for Learning for Life units which included career oriented Explorer posts. In many cases, this ban has extended to not allowing groups reformed outside of Learning for Life (such as the LAPD[10] and LAFD[11] Cadet programs) to attend competitions and musters due to the use of BSA insurance by the event organizers.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Participation Totals". Annual Report 2013 (PDF). December 31, 2013. p. 12. 
  2. ^ "Learning for Life — Exploring". Retrieved January 15, 2006. 
  3. ^ 2010 Annual Report (PDF). Learning for Life. p. 22. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  4. ^ 2011 Annual Report (PDF). Learning for Life. p. 19. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  5. ^ 2012 Annual Report (PDF). Learning for Life. p. 19. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  6. ^ 2013 Annual Report (PDF). Learning for Life. p. 12. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  7. ^ 2014 Annual Report (PDF). Learning for Life. p. 11. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  8. ^ "United Way pulls funding for Philly-area Boy Scouts". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 3, 2003. p. 22. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  9. ^ "LA to Cut Scout Ties Over Discrimination". ABC News. 29 November 2000. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  10. ^ "LAPD Cadets, Los Angeles Police Department – Community Youth Program". www.lapdcadets.com. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  11. ^ "Become a Cadet, Los Angeles Fire Department". www.lafd.org. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  • 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