History of Exploring


Exploring began as a senior program in early Boy Scout troops. These older boys carried out high adventure activities and service projects, and gave leadership to young Scouts.


Sea Scouting was founded for older Scouts and flourished as a program based on the traditions of the sea. Arthur A. Carey of Waltham, Massachusetts, and Charles Longstreth of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, began in 1912 to take crews of boys for cruises on their boats. Carey’s schooner, the Pioneer, was the first Sea Scout ship. He also produced a 24-page pamphlet, Cruising for Scouts, the ancestor of all the Exploring literature.


United States entered World War I in April 1917. The highly charged atmosphere of “civilian preparedness” made boys interested in naval activities, and thousands joined the Sea Scouts and donned uniforms closely resembling those of our able seamen.


thomas J. Keane, a young Navy lieutenant commander finishing his tour of duty, teamed up with the Chicago Sea Scout prgram for the next two and a half years, tinkering with the new ideas. This led to Keane’s writing a new Sea Scout manual.


With the spread of Sea Scout ships under Keane’s influence, James E. West, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, asked Keane to come to New York as the first national director of Sea Scouting and Senior Scouting.


During the early 1930′s, nearly 75 authorized experiments in older-boy activities were conducted in selected councils.


The Senior Scouting Service was created, with Tom Keane as director. This put him in command of Sea Scouting, a new Explorer Scout program, Senior Scouting in the troop, Rovering, and other special groups, including the Order of the Arrow and Alpha Phi Omega. The new Explorer Scout plan was alternative to Sea Scouting and was for boys who had no leadership positions in the troop and who might have dropped out otherwise.


Waite Phillips, a Tulsa oilman, gave the Boy Scouts of America 35,857 acres of northeast New Mexico, which became the Philmont Scout Ranch and Explorer Base. he made an additional donation in 1941 that led to the creation of the 127,000 acre Philmont Scout Ranch.


On the eve of World War II, a Scout who was 15 or older could choose to remain in his troop as a Senior Scout or an Explorer Scout. The Air Scouting program for boys 15 and older was created in cooperation with the United States Army Air Corps. Membership peaked in 1944; Air Scouting was discontinued in 1954.


The National Executive Board revised Senior Scouting to recognize as Explorers all young men in posts., Sea Scout ships, Air Scout squadrons, and all Boy Scouts over age 14 in troops. The new program was flexible and not restricted to the out-of-doors. This was the first time boys could register as Explorers, not Explorer Scouts.


University of Michigan social scientists interviewed more than a thousand Explorers across the country. Among other things, they found that 83 percent of boys were interested in a future career and an event greater percentage wanted to work with adults in planning that career.


William H. Spurgeon III, a businessman from California and member of the BSA’s national Exploring committee, organized the first special-interest Explore post in Orange County Council, California, using the findings of the Michigan study. Spurgeon took a three-year leave of absence from his job to travel across the country, making countless speeches each day for the new Exploring program.


The BSA launched a new Exploring program that was open to all high school-aged young men. Attempts at Scout-like uniforms and advancement were dropped and Explorer post programs were built around six experience areas: vocational, citizenship, service, social, fitness and outdoor.


Exploring came of age in 1962 as it gathered together delegates elected by districts and councils from all over the nation for its first big exciting national conference! The conference was held on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on August 26-30, 1962.


A study was made of the special-interest posts being organized by William H. Spurgeon III and a new youth study commissioned by the BSA was conducted by marketing researcher Daniel Yankelovich. Career information, coed participation, sports and adult-like recognition were found necessary to attract young adults to Exploring. This study was implemented by a national committee that developed the present Explorer program. As a result, special-interest Explorer posts began to be organized by businesses and professional and trade organizations. The career interest survey of high school students was developed to identify and recruit members.


As noted, sports and fitness activities were of high interest to young adults. Therefore, the Explorer Olympics program was launched in collaboration with the U.S. Olympic Committee, who wanted to expand Olympic sports development programs among America’s youth.


In April 1971, young women were admitted to full membership in Exploring and the upper age limit for Explorers was raised to 21. The flexibility of Exploring along with the need for current information led to the implementation of Exploring magazine. The first issue was published in the spring of 1971, with automatic subscription for all Explorers starting in 1972 as part of their membership fee.


A National Explorer Presidents’ Congress brought more than two thousand Explorer post leaders to Washington, D.C., each year from 1971-1979. This led to organization of the Explorer Presidents’ Association, involving Explorers in planning their own program at every level. These congresses provided leadership training, program workshops, youth involvement, and the election of national officers. Later National President’s Congresses were held in Phoenix (1980), Indianapolis (1981), Philadelphia (1982) and Dallas (1983).


In the mid-70′s, schools began to develop career education and found Exploring to be a willing and experience partner. Career Awareness Exploring was piloted in selected councils.


The first female national Explorer president was elected.


The first National Law Enforcement Explorer Conference was held at Michigan State University.


By 1981, the rapid growth of Exploring led to the development of national specialty programs in aviation, business, science and engineering, law and government, law enforcement, health careers, outdoor, Sea Exploring, sports, career education, arts, skilled trades, social service, fire and rescue, and communications.


Career Awareness Exploring was adopted as the national BSA program. Career seminars were launched and this grew to be a major factor in Exploring membership.


The first National Explorer Leadership Conference was held in August 1984 at Ohio State University; the conference was continued on a biennial basis. Other conferences were held at the University of Maryland, Boston University, University of Colorado, University of South Carolina, University of Indiana and University of Arizona. The last conference was held at the University of Maryland in 1998.


Exploring was brought into the Learning for Life affiliate as the seventh component program of Learning for Life. Louis Harris & Associates of New York was commissioned to undertake the challenge of identifying and uncovering the aspects of the Exploring program that serves as indicators of positive outcomes. They found through a close analysis of Exploring activities, relationships and experiences that the Exploring program demonstrates success inĀ  meeting the elements of healthy youth development.


Today, Exploring is Learning for Life’s career education program and exists to accomplish a major goal: to provide the structure and resources needed for the youth of America to learn about career opportunities, to make ethical choices and to achieve their full potential as individuals.

Highlights of national Exploring activities include:

  • a biennial National Law Enforcement Explorer Conference
  • four biennial Law Enforcement Exploring Academies with the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Army Military Police
  • an annual Mock Trial Competition with the Young Lawyers’ Division, American Bar Association
  • a biennial National Fire and Emergency Services Exploring Conference
  • an annual Aviation Explorer Base Camp and EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
  • four annual Engineering Exploring Academies at Marshall University, Westmoreland County Community College, Georgia Tech and the University of Alabama