How you can be a Nova counselor

NOVA-patchIt doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be a Nova counselor.

That said, rocket scientists are certainly welcome.

By becoming a Nova counselor, you’ll introduce Scouts to the basic principles of STEM and help them discover how fun and fascinating science, technology, engineering and math can be.

You’ll help guide them as they earn the Nova awards as Cub Scouts, Webelos, Boy Scouts or Venturers.

How do you get started? For that, I turn to Richard Stone, who has two degrees in physics and earned his Ph.D. in materials science. He’s the education and training leader of BSA’s National STEM/Nova Committee.

Dr. Stone wrote the useful guest post below.

You can be a Nova counselor

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.

Can you imagine being the counselor who worked with young Scout Steven Spielberg on his photography merit badge? What an impact that person made! My Scoutmaster was an engineer and my electronics merit badge counselor. He sparked my interest in science and technology. He made a big impact on my future.

You can be a Nova counselor, introducing Scouts to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through helping them earn Nova awards. You can help them realize that successful achievement in STEM is possible and maybe leads to rewarding hobbies or professions.

As a Nova counselor, you will help Scouts work with STEM concepts and complete the activities required for the awards. It’s much like being a merit badge counselor or helping Cubs earn activity badges or belt loops. You do a bit of teaching and helping them discover the answers. You keep track of progress and help the Scout reach the next step. And of course you ensure safety and Youth Protection.

You can do it.

If you can visit an amusement park or playground and discuss the simple machines that make the rides work, you can help a Boy Scout earn the “Whoosh!” engineering Nova Award.

If you can help a Cub Scout weigh himself and calculate how much he would weigh on the moon, you have helped him earn the “1-2-3 Go!” math Nova award.

If you are a shooting sports director, robotics merit badge counselor, or baseball coach, you can extend those activities through the “Shoot!” Nova Award for Boy Scouts.

If you are comfortable with high school-level science and math, you can be a counselor. If you have baked a cake, done construction, run a race, or filled out a tax form, you have what it takes.

Testimonials from Nova counselors

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or STEM professional to be qualified.

Counselor Kristin explains, “When adults open the Nova book and see what’s inside, they become intimidated. They worry, ‘I’m not an engineer or an astronaut. I don’t know if I can do this.’ But you don’t have to be one. Anyone can be a counselor.”

What’s Kristin’s job? She’s a professional event planner. She became active in her den and pack, saw an opportunity and became a counselor and later a Supernova mentor. She is a trainer and a roundtable commissioner and has become a cheerleader for Nova. Her advice: “You can be a counselor.”

Counselor Ruwena explained, “My husband and I are both business majors and did not have parents or mentors in the STEM fields of study. So, showing our boys something different is exciting.” She continued, “I was interested in having my boys explore science and earn the Nova award. Our pack was reorganizing and did not have a counselor, so we committed to do this with our boys and others in the pack.”

Counselor qualifications (and how many your unit needs)

Each pack and troop should have at least one counselor, possibly several for more active units. And each counselor needs help from other adults in the unit. Every unit has qualified adults who can help with activities. Ask them!

You can be a counselor if you are:

  • At least 21 years of age
  • Of good character
  • Able and willing to work with Scout-age youth
  • Comfortable with high school math and science
  • Willing to research STEM topics if you are not familiar or comfortable enough. And willing to partner with a subject-matter expert if required.
  • A registered BSA adult (completed the registration form, position code 58, no charge)
  • Current in Youth Protection Training

Will you be the Nova Counselor that plants the seeds of a Scout’s future? You are needed, and you can do it.

Related post

How to include STEM activities in your pack or troop’s summer fun


Photo: Jamboree participants watch a chemical reaction between liquid nitrogen and water. (BSA photo by Shane Noem)

About Bryan Wendell 2800 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.