The National Leadership Seminar (NLS) is often regarded as one of the best youth leadership training programs available. From its inception, NLS has built confident leaders who are able to harness their creative skills and leadership personality to better their chapters, lodges, and sections. This program not only helps participants positively affect Scouting at home, but is also helps them succeed in life. Now, with a recent update in place, participants of a 2018 NLS course should be prepared for an even more exciting event.

When the last NLS program was released in the 1993, the leadership theories and techniques used in the course’s content were state-of-the-art. However, more than two decades laters, the national Order of the Arrow training subcommittee decided that it was time for the program to be reevaluated. Beginning in early 2017, youth lead Jeff Sedlacek and adult adviser Jason Riley assembled a task force (a group specially organized for a task) who would develop an updated course. Through many conference calls, face-to-face discussions and even a meeting at Philmont Scout Ranch, the task force updated the program. A pilot course was launched last November, which was successful. Following the pilot, updates were made to the national Train the Trainer (TTT) event, which is where the regional NLS teams are trained on how to properly implement the NLS program. This years TTT was held in Houston, TX, and the new staff were taught how to present the updated program.

Whereas the old NLS placed a higher emphasis on lecture-based instruction, the  updated seminar includes more dynamic activities to engage all learning styles. Before every course, participants, now referred to as “learners”, will complete a learning assessment. This evaluation will give the learners a good sense of how they absorb information and how easy it is to work with someone with a different learning style. Table guides, now referred to as “crew guides”, are in charge of working with the learners and providing guidance throughout each session. Every learner will be given a trail map — an interactive guide to take notes and fill in diagrams. The trail map also includes the learning outcomes and key points from each session so that the learners can better utilize the information once they return home.

The updated NLS course also includes much more technology in an effort to meet the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy society. Each table will have access to a tablet that can be used to answer real-time questions on screen using Slido, a online polling service. The responses to these questions can help us understand how to constantly improve the program for the future. During one of the new sessions, Everest Challenger, learners work together to summit Mount Everest. Essentially a large-scale board game, Everest Challenger helps learners make deals, overcome obstacles, and make sure their decisions match their personal values.

2018 is a pivotal year for the NLS course in its new form. Moving forward, regional and national leadership plan to gather information and data through surveys to help revise the course every couple years. For now though, the updated seminar will continue to raise the bar for all trainings, and provide a experiences and memories to last a lifetime.