Leadership Notes #52 – Overview of BSA Training for Leaders

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

On this, the first year anniversary of Leadership Notes, I thought I’d do something a little different. In addition to studying leadership development, for some time I have been studying the history of the BSA’s “senior” programs (Air Scouts/Explorers, Sea Scouts/Explorers, Explorer Scouts, Explorers/Exploring, and Venturing). As part of this, I have been collecting literature (as best I can, as too often I get outbid by others on eBay), including training materials.

The training we provide to those in the senior programs, both youth and adults, have changed over the years, many times in parallel with what the BSA has done in other areas. It shows a rich area of history that I think too many are ignorant about. Below is the information I have been able to gather so far, as this is an area I continue to seek out information on.

History of Training for Adult Senior Leaders

By and large, basic training for Senior Leaders (this includes leaders for Explorer Scouts, Sea Scouts, Air Scouts, Rover Scout, and subsequent programs) has paralleled the training for Boy Scout Leaders. So as changes in BS Leader training has changed, so too has training for Senior Leaders. Because of this, I have organized this into loose eras as I’ve seen changes to leader training overall in the BSA.

Early 20s-around 1928.

First part consisted of Minimum, Approved, and Standard courses.

Not sure when “Principles of Scoutmastership” was put in place or when the “5 Year Training Program” went into effect.

The only Senior program that really existed during this time was Sea Scouting, and I have no data as to what might have been offered during this time. As Sea Scouting was still in flux, it’s uncertain what forms of formal training may have existed.


Minimum, Approved and Standard courses replaced by “Elements of Scoutmastership”.

“Principles of Scoutmastership” was the second level course.

“Principles of First Aid” was the third level course.

Specialization courses also existed.

Again, uncertain of what Sea Scout training exists, other then what I note next.

Mid-1930s thru mid-1940s

During this time, the “Principles of Scoutmastership” course would be replaced with a 3-part “Elements of Scout Leadership”. This course was expected to be proved to ALL Scout leaders, including Senior Leaders. The three parts consisted of:
• Pt 1- Introduction to Scouting
• Pt 2- Troop Operation
• Pt 3- Short-term Camp Manual for Course Instructors & Leaders of Troops, Tribes, Patrols

The next level course from this one consisted of a 2-part “Principles of Scout & Cub Leadership Training Course”, again, intended for all leaders. The two parts consisted of:
• Pt 1- Troop & Pack Management;
• Pr 2- Roundtables

Now, I do have some scans of manuals produced by the Sea Scout Division that consisted of their own version of “Elements”: “Elements of Sea Scout Leadership”. These are undated, and are usually dated as being early 30. So far, I am aware of the following:

Sea Scout Service Aids for Leadership Training
#1 The Elements of Sea Scout Leadership, Part 1. [have copy]
#1a Sea Scout Requirements
#2 Songs Sea Scouts Sing [have copy]
#2a Sea Scout Games & Play-Ways (Chas F Smith)
#3 Traditions [have copy]
#4 A Cruise to the Isle of Nukaheva (A Sea Scout Play in 3 acts) [have copy]
#5 Ship Meetings [have copy]
#6 Organization and Management of an Elements of Sea Scout Leaders’ Training Course [have copy]
#7 The Ship Chest: Thrift Training for Sea Scouts [have copy]
#11 The Elements of Sea Scout Leadership, Part 1 1930s (repeat of #1) [have copy]
#12 Course Leader Helps for Part 1
#13 Outline of Talks for Part 1 (Sea Customs & Traditions- update of #3) [have copy]
#14 The Cruise to the Island of Nukaheva (repeat of #4)
#15 OPENING CEREMONEY FOR SEA SCOUT SHIP (update of #5) [have copy]
#21 Elements of Sea scout Leadership, PtII
#22 Course Leader Helps for PtII
#23 Outline of Talks for PtII
#24 Plans for sea scout Ship Meeting Place (Sea Scout Service Aids Part II)

Another course I am aware of, but again do not have, is Preparatory course in Sea Scout Leadership #3432 1934


During this period, the “Elements of Scout Leadership” course is replaced with series of program-specific training courses. Part I was replaced by an “Introductory Training Session” (#3737). Part II was replaced with the Scoutmaster’s Training Course, which consisted of a Course Guidebook (#3732) for staff, and a participant’s Notebook (#3731). The same style was used for Senior Leaders. For Explorer Leaders, there was the “Explorer Leader Training Course” (#4167) [afaik, there were no separate guidebooks & notebooks]. For Air Scout Leaders there was the “Air Scout Leader Training Course” (#4163 for Notebook; #4164 for Guidebook). And for Sea Scout Leaders there was the “Skipper’s Training Course” (#3739 for Guidebook; #3738 for Notebook).

Elements Part III was replaced by the Troop Camping course.

The second level course, “Principles of Scout & Cub Leadership Training Course” was replaced by the Scout Leader’s Advanced Training Course, which was intended for ALL Scout Leaders. It consisted of a Guidebook (#3708) and Notebook (#3707).

In addition to these courses, there were various specialty courses offered. Some of the ones I have seen references are:
• Senior Scout Leader Training Course T-10
• Sea Scout Cruising & Boat Handling Course T-310/11-322
• Trail Expedition Training Course T-410/11-230
• Senior Scouting Conference T-25

Others may also exist.


In 1950, all BSA training was again revamped. Now basic training consisted of several standalone courses. Participants were given a Notebook to use for all the courses, to keep their notes. I have no data as to what training may have been made available to Air Explorer or Sea Explorer leaders during this time. Training info I have is only for the new Explorer program.

Initially, this new training, called the “Explorer Leaders’ Training Series”, consisted of these works:
• Explorer Organization #3152
• Explorer Leadership #3153
• Explorer Program #3154
• Explorer Service #3155
• Expedition Skills #3156
• Notebook for Explorer Leaders #3157

These works were first rolled out as `proof editions’, soon as released versions. Explorer Organization would be renamed Explorer Fundamentals.

In 1956, the training was revamped, and the Notebook was dropped. The courses were now:
• Basic Training #6601 (included Exp Fund, Exp Ldrshp, Expl Prog)
• Outdoor Activities #6602 (renamed Expedition Skills)
• Service Activities #6603 (renamed Explorer Service)
• Social Activities #6604
• Vocational Activities #6605

In the 1950s, we also had Explorer Wood Badge. As Explorers was an outdoor program, this made sense. The course was ONLY made available at Schiff and Philmont. There were about 30+ courses done. Participants were organized into 4 crews (remember, Explorer units were called Posts, subdivided into crews) named after mountain men: Jim Bridger, Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, and William Clark. The course was aimed at program trainers. Participants wore a brown neckerchief, instead of the standard green participant neckerchief. They still received the standard Wood Badge neckerchief, woggle and beads at the completion of their ticket.


With the radical changes to the Explorer program, the training for Explorer leaders was also changed. During this time, there was now one course for them: “Explorer Leader Basic Training” (#6601A). An additional course called “Understanding Explorers” was also added.

Also during this time, a course for Sea Explorer leaders was released “Sea Explorer Leaders’ Specialized Training” (#6664). With changes, this course has existed to this day.


During this time, with further changes to Exploring, changes again occurred with Explorer Leader training. What information I have gives the following courses:

Explorer Advisor’s Seminar (#6608)
Explorer Leader Development- The Advisor (#6619)

Also during this time, Sea Explorer leaders developed the Seabadge course, a weekend leadership development course for Sea Explorer leaders. At first, course participants had to complete a “praxis”, similar to a Wood Badge ticket, to complete the course, but this was later dropped.


During this time, Explorer Adult Leader training consisted of just one course: “Explorer Leader Basic Training” (#6632).

Also during this time, Explorer leaders out west developed a course to be an equivalent to Wood Badge for them. Called “Explorer Leadership Institute” from 1984 to 93, then renamed “Advanced Concepts in Exploring”, this was a weekend course. No uniform insignia was developed, tho I have seen a patch created. Participants got a bronze gavel, with staff getting a silver gavel and course directors a gold gavel. It was never accepted as a National course, and with the roll out of 21st Century WB, the need for this course ended.


During this time, Explorer Adult Leader training consisted of a revision of the previous course, now called “Adult Explorer Leader Basic Training” (#34637)


With the roll out of Venturing replacing Exploring, the basic training for Venturing leaders was just a revision of the previous course, now called “Adult Venturing Leader Basic Training” (#33491). It would soon be expanded to 5 hours from 4, and later brought into the same structure as the rest of the BSA’s Basic Training programs, and became “Venturing Leader Specific Training” (#33491C, later revised to D).

During this time, the “Sea Scout Officers Specialized Training” became an add-on to the adult Venturing leader training. Most recently (about 2-3 years ago), it’s become a stand-alone program, replacing VLST, despite the fact that it’s just a 3 hour course and leaves a lot out.

History of Training for Youth Senior Leaders

As with adult leaders, youth leadership training in the senior programs have usually, but not always, has paralleled the training for boy scouts.

During the early years of scouting, formal youth training pretty much didn’t exist. It’s not until the 1950s that I see any indication of courses. At the local level there was Explorer Elected Leader Training (#6615). At Philmont a course was created in 1953 called “National Senior Crew Leader Training Course”, replaced in 1956 with “National Explorer Elected Leader Training Course”, which was meant as a `train the trainer’ course like the old NJLTC. This course was dropped in 1959 with the change in the Exploring program.

The next course I am able to find is one for Elected Post Officers (#6635) in the 1970s. This seems to be replaced by a Post Officer Seminar (#6626) in the 80s.

For Sea Explorers, a big change was SEAL (originally Sea Explorer Advanced Leadership Training) was rolled out in 1996. It many ways, it’s a sort of “NYLT” for Sea Scout leaders, and continues to be run today with 4-5 courses a year.

With Venturing, the first big change was the rolled out of Venturing Leadership Skills Course (VLSC). The term “Nature of Leadership” started to emerge around 2001. It was first used as the term for the course that would become Kodiak, then became the umbrella term for Venturer training (VLSC, Kodiak, Kodiak-X).

VLSC was the first course, and unlike its counterpart for Boy Scouts, VLSC was intended for ALL venturers to attend, whether an officer or not. Also given was a special strip, not just using a trained strip, which means a youth who is not a officer (and hence not have an office patch) could still wear the VLSC strip.

Kodiak was first rolled out in 2004, but was first done under the name of “Nature of Leadership” from 2001 thru 2003. Kodiak-X, the weekend follow on course was developed in 2005 and soon rolled out as well.

At the same time Kodiak-X was being developed, there was also talk of courses for Mentoring and Training for the Venturers, each with their own strips. While the mentoring course was completed, it was never really rolled out, and the training course was killed in favor of Trainers Edge.

Of course, now with us all being in ‘one big family’, things have changed. VLSC and Kodiak-X were killed off. ILSC was rolled out and Kodiak became Kodiak Challenge, and Venturers are expected to attend NYLT and NAYLE. I’ll leave it to others to determine if this was good or bad.