After successfully piloting the program in East Tennessee, the BSA’s National Executive Board approved a plan to expand the STEM Scouts pilot to 12 additional councils.
The councils, pending their board approval, are:
- Capitol Area Council (Austin, Texas)
- Catalina Council (Tucson, Ariz.)
- Circle Ten Council (Dallas)
- Connecticut Rivers Council (East Hartford, Conn.)
- Crossroads of America Council (Indianapolis)
- Denver Area Council
- Garden State Council (Westampton Township, N.J.)
- Greater St. Louis Area Council
- Middle Tennessee Council (Nashville, Tenn.)
- Pathway to Adventure Council (Chicago)
- Sam Houston Area Council (Houston)
- Samoset Council (Weston, Wis.)
The success of the East Tennessee pilot confirms the BSA’s hypothesis that young people are excited to experience STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in a fun setting. The STEM Scouts program blends Scouting’s time-tested character-building traits with hands-on STEM modules that’ll prepare boys and girls for careers in STEM fields.
STEM Scouts are boys and girls in third through 12th grade. They’re split into three divisions:
- Elementary school (third through fifth grade)
- Middle school (sixth through eighth grade)
- High school (ninth through 12th grade)
Instead of packs or troops, STEM Scouts are grouped into “laboratories,” which can be shortened to “labs.”
They meet weekly, after school, for hands-on, fun activities organized into four- to six-week modules that cover a ton of fun STEM topics. Some examples from the pilot (these are subject to change):
- Mad About Gravity (elementary school): How does gravity work? Learn how a parachute slows down a falling egg. Create a real-life “Angry Birds” game, participate in an egg drop challenge and launch your own designed rocket.
- Robot Race (middle school): Using Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0, design, build and program a robot that can pick up and move ping pong balls. Compete against your fellow STEM Scouts to see whose robot gets the job done fastest.
- Forensic Science (high school): Solve a murder mystery by applying forensic science techniques. Conduct gel electrophoresis as you explore DNA and how it applies to forensic science. Investigate blood typing activities using simulated blood. Learn how to lift fingerprints and take casts of footprints.
April McMillan and Trent Nichols (pictured) serve as national directors of STEM programs. On the STEM Scouts site, they shared their vision for this new BSA program. A few highlights:
The key for the entire offered curriculum is that it will be fast-paced, thought-provoking and fun. Adult volunteers and STEM professionals will have the opportunity to engage interested girls and boys with hands-on activities in the labs divided by the age divisions. Throughout the year, students will be involved in experiential activities that encourage natural curiosity and insights in STEM fields.
This new program represents a bit of a paradigm shift for parents from the traditional outdoor-oriented Scouting. The children will receive important character building and learning through field trips and weekly interactions with STEM professionals as well as learning citizenship. This up close and personal insight into how STEM skills are used in business and industry is critical to enable girls and boys to visualize themselves succeeding in STEM fields.
Facts about STEM Scouts
Here’s what I know about STEM Scouts so far:
- The first STEM Scouts pilot was held in Knoxville, Oak Ridge and Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy in Blount County, Tenn. Now the pilot will expand to 12 additional BSA councils.
- It’s for boys and girls in third through 12th grade.
- Units are called laboratories, or labs.
- Weekly after-school meetings cover STEM modules and include fun, hands-on activities.
- There are no ranks or badges, but youth receive participation awards for weekly activities and achievement awards for completing Individual Learning Modules.
- STEM Scouts will be able to publish and share their work through an online, peer-reviewed scientific journal.
- STEM Scouts will take field trips to relevant places and have weekly interactions with STEM professionals.
- Labs are chartered to area sponsors.
- Labs are led by volunteers, and those volunteers do not necessarily have to be STEM professionals.
- The cost for a year is $150, which includes lab instruction, T-shirt, a discount on a lab coat, safety goggles, lanyard and some appropriate informational materials.
- The team behind STEM Scouts is led by April McMillan and Trent Nichols.
STEM Scouts website
The future of STEM Scouts
From what I’ve seen and the success of STEM Scouts in East Tennessee so far, I have high hopes. It’ll be exciting to follow along as STEM Scouts grows from a pilot program into a an exceptional, nationwide opportunity for young people interested in STEM.
STEM Scouts in the news
Watch this news report from WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tenn., for more about the STEM Scouts pilot.
Photos of STEM Scouts
What does STEM Scouts look like in action? Here’s a slideshow:
All photos: Copyright STEM Scouts, by Bryan Allen at PopFizz