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Include STEM activities in your pack or troop’s summer fun

You’ve heard a lot about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in Scouting.

So what you need now are some ideas on how to inject STEM-focused activities into your summer Scouting plans.

Richard Stone, who has two degrees in physics and earned his Ph.D. in materials science, is the education and training leader of BSA’s National STEM/Nova Committee.

He wrote this excellent guest post full of great ideas:

Explore STEM while enjoying summer fun

Our guest blogger with the famous Pedro at the 2014 National Annual Meeting.

Our guest blogger with the famous Pedro at the 2014 National Annual Meeting.

What are your plans for summer fun? Going to the beach or pool? Going fishing? Camping? Having a big picnic and cookout?

All Scouts enjoy the adventures and activities of summer even if it’s just chillin’ with their buds.

Many Scouts today also enjoy the challenge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

We use STEM all the time, and many Scouts enjoy exploring these topics in addition to their outdoor adventures.

But here’s an idea: Why not enjoy both? Why not use science to become a better fisherman? There is STEM in outdoor adventures. Let’s find it. Let’s explore it.

Here are some ideas, can you add to the list?

STEM in Summer

  1. Do fish like colder or warmer water? Where in your fishing area are the warmer or colder waters? Can you catch more fish there?
  2. Observe the weather. When is the wind the strongest? From which direction does it normally blow? When do the clouds come, and which types end up making rain?
  3. While swimming, why do you float when you take a deep breath, but you sink when you let it out?
  4. If it’s a cloudy evening, try using an astronomy app to see the constellations.
  5. Measure the height of a tree or a building. (You just earned requirement 3B of the 1-2-3 Go! Nova Award for Cubs and Webelos.)
  6. Go geocaching. While hiking toward the cache, talk about mathematics used to calculate the position of the GPS unit with distance measurements from the satellites.
  7. Use smartphone cameras to “collect” butterflies, birds, or flowers. Why not record the birdsongs and play them at your next parents night or School Night recruiting event?
  8. Slow oxidation of sugars is how you get that nice golden brown marshmallow for your s’mores. Rapid oxidation is when the marshmallow catches fire. Some people like it that way!

Learning STEM is fun in itself. Exploring the STEM aspects of outdoor activities also enhances the appreciation and enjoyment of those activities. STEM makes everything more fun!

You can do it. Adult leaders don’t have to be rocket scientists or professional engineers to help the Scouts explore STEM. You can do a little research before you go. Team with another adult who may be more familiar with the topic.

Then, be prepared for the opportunity to explore a bit. Ask questions. Provide any information that you may have. Ask the Scouts what they think (or ask them to look it up.). And it’s perfectly OK to say “I don’t know, let’s find out.”


Top photo: Volunteers from Fairmont State University’s engineering department help Scouts understand surveying at the National Jamboree. BSA photo by Shane Noem.

5 Comments on Include STEM activities in your pack or troop’s summer fun

  1. On it! We are planning a trip to Bricks 4Kidz for our July summer activity, and the webelos are going to work on their Engineer activity badge.

  2. m.j.lorente // July 10, 2014 at 10:07 am // Reply

    Looking for STEM/NOVA Mentors or Counselors in Charleston SC area.

    Or are there any Troops planning STEM/NOVA events this summer? We’d travel to NC or GA too.

  3. Already on it! Our Cub Scout summer camp has a fantastic station where the kids are not only going to have fun building and launching differnt types of rockets, BUT they will also be taking notes ….. measuring distance and even trajectory!

  4. We’ve taken a more formal approach to STEM. It’s not necessarily better, but it’s getting the word out about the Nova awards. Some of our Cub Camps have a STEM station where the scouts work towards a Nova award. We alternate which topic (S, T, E or M) we present each year. Last year, about 80 scouts earned the Nova-Science award. This year 120 scouts earned the Nova-Math award. We also do informal events like “The Science of Amusement Parks”.

  5. I like the article and ideas noted in the article and by others. My pack may try solar cooking.

    In my council, many districts encouraged units to register adult campers as Nova Counselors before the summer. All district camps had a STEM Station this year.

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