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> updated 11/07/15
Added information concerning the Summit Award which replaced the Silver Award.
> updated 15/04/11
Added information and square knot insignia for the current (3rd) version of the Silver Award.
> updated 25/06/08
The first version of the Silver Award 									square knot insignia

George Crowl, a former Explorer and Explorer Advisor from the "good old days of Scouting (back in the 50s and early 60s) had quite a few corrections and updates to the old pages on the various Exploring "square knot insignia." So, while I was editing the existing pages, I decided -- "let's give Exploring it's rightful due" and I built these pages around what he and another Exploring/Venturing historian Mike Brown (as well as my own personal bit of Exploring "history" and research) provided. He correctly wrote:

Your USSSP page has some incompleteness and inconsistencies. I refer you to Michael Brown’s excellent web site of Senior Scouting history . I personally am a Silver Award Explorer, Type 1, from 1953, so I lived the entire program from 1950 to 1958, was an Air Explorer, and was an Explorer Advisor from 1980-97, so have experience with the later program as well, helping two young women earn the Explorer Achievement Award.

I made corrections to the GOLD paragraph. I corrected the Ace paragraph, and replaced the private issue knot with a scan of a real Ace knot, but have had trouble getting rid of the private issue knot. I added a Ranger paragraph and knot. I corrected terminology throughout. I modified the Silver Award paragraph to reflect what actually happened. I added some information on the Explorer Achievement Award.

Second version of Exploring Silver Award, also used for several
other Exploring awards over the years -- and is currently being shared with the
Young American Awards.

I’m honored to give my thanks in acknowledging George Crowl’s contributions toward making this as accurate a review as possible!

Thank you so much for the additional information and the scans!.

Exploring/Older Youth "square knot emblems"

Older Youth Square knot insignia Left Side Explorer

Older Youth "square knot emblems"

Ace Award knot emblemRanger Award knot emblemFirst Silver Award knot emblem
Second Silver Award knot emblemThe second (commerical) version of the Venturing Leadership Award square knot insigniaCurrent (third) version of the Silver Award

From the late 40s to the present, six square knot emblems (seven, if one included the Quartermaster Sea Exploring/Scout rank square knot) were OFFICIALLY made available to young men and women within the BSA's several older youth programs. This page focuses on the older youth program, called "Exploring" and it's participants were called either "Explorers" (after the early 50s) and "Explorer Scouts" (before the 50s). Venturing , the current older youth program of the BSA, has a separate page which illustrates the current square knot and medal combination representing the highest awards within Venturing and Sea Scouting. It's highest award, the Summit Award, replaced the third version of the Silver Award.

The Exploring awards square knot insignia

The square knot emblem illustrated above is currently used to represent the four Exploring advancement or personal achievement awards as well as an informal uniform item for holders of a Young American Award received from a local Council or nationally. The reason why it is used to represent holders of those older awards is because National Supply no longer stocks any of the below items with the exception of this square knot emblem, which is commonly called "the Exploring Award knot" but in reality as you will read below, represents holders of the second version of the Explorer Silver Award. Small program devices representing the earlier awards may be worn by the holder. This square knot insignia was officially discontinued by the BSA in December 2013; it is no longer available for retail sales through local Councils or nationally.

The Ace Award square knot insignia

Ace Award

This was the highest award/rank in the former Air Scout/Exploring Program of BSA. Explorers had to demonstrate aviation knowledge, leadership, and service over a period of time; and earn several rating awards. Ace Awards were conferred after a review board at the local Council level. The Ace Award was available from 1942 to 1954. 723 were awarded. In 1954 it was replaced with the Explorer Silver Award, which lasted until the Air Exploring program ended in 1966. Aviation has remained an Exploring specialty interest since then.

An ORIGINAL scan of the Ranger Award square knot insignia

Ranger Award

This was the highest award/rank in the former Explorer Scout program of BSA. Explorers had to demonstrate woodcraft and camping knowledge, leadership, and service over a period of time. Ranger Awards were conferred after a review board at the local Council level. The Ranger Award was available from 1944 to 1951. 2782 were awarded. In 1949 it was replaced with the Explorer Silver Award.

In 1999, the BSA re-introduced the Ranger Award for Venturers to earn. The requirements are just as tough as the previous award. In 2002, several Venturing and former Exploring leaders sent the first of four requests to the BSA's National Uniform and Insignia Committee requesting that the Supply Division once again make the special square knot -- with the same design and colors -- to today's holders of the Ranger Award.
So far, we have not convinced the Committee of the need of the knot emblem. Instead, the BSA did authorize the top bar of the current Ranger medal to be worn in a similar style as the old Hornaday Award "top bar" or Badge, alongside other square knot insignia. This has NOT stopped some local Councils in authorizing reproductions of the Ranger square knot, sold by a Venturing Crew as a fund-raiser, to be worn on the green Venturing uniform.

The Boy Scouts of America has NOT approved the wearing of the Ranger Award square knot to represent the present award; those holders of the Ranger Award must (for the time being!) wear the RANGER silver (top) bar centered on the left pocket flap of the uniform. (If you feel the square knot should return to the kelly green uniform, please write to the Venturing Division, BSA and let them know!! ) In the meantime, the wearing of the Ranger Award square knot emblem by holders is limited to those whom have received permission to do so from their Council's Scout Executive.

The first version of the Silver Award square knot insigniaThe second version of the Silver Award square knot insigniaThe third (current) version of the Silver Award square knot insignia

Explorer Silver Award/Venturing Silver Award

The knot emblem to the left represents the first Explorer Silver Award; the one in the center is the second version of the Silver Award's square knot insignia; and the one on the right represents the Venturing Silver Award. The second was also used for the Exploring Achievement Award (see below). The Silver Award was designed as a replacement for the Explorer Scout Ranger Award. Between 2198 and 3410 of the first version of the Silver Award were earned (the medal and knot emblem changed in 1954, and both kinds were handed out according to the stock available). Between 12877 and 15157 of the second version were earned before the end of 1959 before BSA revised the Exploring Program and deleted all recognitions from it. The Silver Award remained available for Air Explorers from 1960-66, and 901 were earned by them.

When the BSA restructured the older youth programs in 1997-98, the Older Youth Reorganization Team took a look at the old Exploring advancement program (which consisted of an Apprentice, Bronze, Gold and Silver Award rank) and applied it to the current Venturing program, giving young people (including for the first time, female registered members) the opportunity to earn BSA awards. The Apprentice rank was later dropped before the roll-out of the new program in 1998. The BSA unfortunately did not start keeping national records of the number of Silver Awardees until 2008, and as of 2013 the number of Silver Award receipients is less than 500. Several national Venturing staffers estimate that another 200 or so have earned Silver prior to the BSA requiring copies of the Silver Award nomination forms be sent to the National Office for record keeping.

In 2014, the Venturing Silver Award was discontinued and replaced with the Venturing Summit Award with different requirements and a different advancement scheme. It is possible for someone to earn both Silver and Summit Awards, and to denote that accomphishment, a small Venturing program device is worn with the Summit Award square knot emblem to represent that accomphishment. More about the Summit Award on this page.

As explained above, the second version of the Silver Award knot emblem may be worn by Aces, Rangers, and first Silver Award holders and holders of any national or local Council Young American Award.

. the Explorer Achivement Award pin (submitted by Mike Walton)the Explorer Achivement Award pin (provided by Exploring Division BSA) The second version of the Silver Award square knot insignia

Explorer Achievement Award (the lapel pins are actually 3/4" of an inch high)

The Explorer Achievement Award was established in 1981 to fill a perceived need for recognition for Explorers. Each Explorer required 18 months total tenure in Exploring, leadership, and designed their own program of growth in the six experience areas of Exploring. The review was conducted by the Explorer post. There were no national statistics of the number of awards were kept however local Councils did retain and reported to the Exploring Division the number of Awards presented between 1981 and 1986. The Exploring Division stated that there were close to 400 Exploring Acheivement Awards presented during this period of time.

The Award consisted of a lapel pin, certificate and the knot emblem. The design of the pins were changed when the "Big E" became the "flying E" in the early 90s. The silver gray knot on red/white/blue background was authorized for uniform wear by Explorers whose "Distinctive Dress Idenity" included the official Explorer uniform shirt. INFORMALLY, to distinguish those new youth holders from the older holders of the earlier awards, the small "Big E" emblem was also authorized to be placed on the center of the knot emblem. The EAA was superseded by the G.O.L.D. Award.

Explorer G.O.L.D. Award (left) and the Young American Award (right)

the Explorer GOLD Award medallionThe medallion for the Young American Award

The second version of the Silver Award square knot insignia

The same knot emblem shown above is most recently used to represent holders of the former Exploring Growth Opportunity in Leadership Development (G.O.L.D.) Award as well as holders of the local Council or national Young American Awards.

As Exploring was transferred to the Learning for Life Corportation, participants in the Learning for Life programs may receive the Young American Award but because Learning for Life/Exploring does not have a uniform, the knot emblem illustrated award MAY NOT be worn by Learning for Life/Exploring youth or adult members.

The Exploring Growth Opportunity in Leadership Development (G.O.L.D.) Award was earned by male and female members of any Explorer Post or Ship after a period of service, leadership and tenure. Each Explorer created his/her own set of of "requirements" for the award. At the end of the period of service and leadership, candidates appeared before the Post or District Exploring Committee to review the path taken to complete the requirements for the award.

The Young American Awards are described on a separate page of the Badge and Uniform Site. Older Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts and Venturers/Sea Scouts may be nominated and receive this award and may wear the square knot emblem shown on either the Venturing or "universal" field uniforms. The Young American Award may also be presented to Learning for Life/Exploring participants as well as individuals who are NOT registered members of the Boy Scouts of America nor a participant in the Learning for Life programs.

Exploring/Venturing Leadership Awards

Earlier version of National (left) and Regional (right) Exploring Leadership AwardsFrom 1981 to 1999, a series of awards were presented by local Councils, Areas/Regions and the National Council to Explorers and adult leaders who made exceptional contributions to Exploring and who exempfied the Explorer Code. The BSA-suppled awards featured the "Big E" suspended from a blue (local Council), red (Regional/Regional Area) and blue and red -- later red, white and blue (National) narrow ribbons. They were awarded at local Council, Regional or National Exploring events.

Bronze Big Horn Award (East Central Region)

During this same period of time, three of the existing six BSA regions (East Central, Southeast and Western) also presented plaques, medallions, certificates and/or lapel pins to recognize youth and adult contributions to Exploring. These awards – the Bronze, Gold and Silver Big Horn Awards (East Central Region); the Gold and Silver Bulldog Awards and Plaques (Southeast Region); and the Regional Exploring Awards (local Council and Regional, Western Regional Exploring plaques) – were not officially recognized by the Exploring Division but Regions made them available for further recognition of the youth and adults within their Regions.

There was NO square knot insignia authorized nor approved for those awards; and more than fifteen years later, one would be extremely lucky to find a Silver Bulldog or Silver Big Horn Award since the numbers of those awards were very small; the East Central Region awarded 109 Bronze and 43 Gold Big Horn Awards before they disposed of the remaining medallions and certificates. The Western Region reported that during this period they awarded 222 local Council Exploring Awards and 26 Regional Exploring Awards.

Venturing Leadership Award

The first (official) version of the Silver Award square knot insignia

The second (commerical) version of the Silver Award square knot insignia

The Venturing Division created the Venturing Leadership Awards awards in 1999 - with different ribbon combinations (white and blue, local Council; white and green, regional area/regional; and white and red, national) -- soon after the new Division took shape. A medallion with the Venturing emblem replaced the bronze "Big E" emblem. There is a square knot insignia item representing holders of one or more of those awards.

In 2011, someone created an improved version of the Venturing Leadership Awards knot emblem and has been selling it commercially. It closely matches existing square knot insignia. In 2012, the BSA announced that with the end of the 2015-16 program year and as part of a national overall reduction in the number and types of awards and square knot emblems, that the BSA will no longer award the Venturing Leadership Awards on a Regional or National basis, citing that the Awards really equated to awards for service as a Regional or National Venturing leader. The Venturing Task Force, working with the Program Group, restored those awards in 2017 and outlined how they are presented in the absence of other national or regional service awards.


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Credits: Knot scans courtesy of Mike Walton and George Crowl. Statistical information and dates provided by Michael Brown and Mike Walton. Thanks again to George Crowl for additional information to make this page complete and more accurate.

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