Understanding the difference between STEM in Scouting and STEM Scouts

STEM in Scouting and STEM Scouts are two separate but related things.

It sounds confusing, but it’s really not.

I wanted to take a minute to clear up any bewilderment about the difference between STEM activities in traditional packs, troops, crews, teams or ships and STEM Scouts, the new BSA program expanding to 12 more councils this fall.

Both programs introduce young people to skills and careers related to STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. Those skills will come in handy when it’s time to apply for college and a job. There are more STEM jobs than there are qualified candidates these days, so the need is real.

“STEM jobs are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs, and the U.S. is simply not producing enough candidates to fill them,” according to this CNN Money article.

So whether a young man or young woman chooses to try STEM activities in his or her traditional Scout unit or chooses to join a new STEM Scouts lab, one thing’s clear: STEM is here to stay, and the BSA will help connect people to STEM in ways no other youth-serving organization can.

What’s different?

Here’s how it boils down, as explained to me by April McMillan and Trent Nichols. They’re the national directors of STEM programs, meaning they oversee both STEM in traditional Scouting and STEM Scouts.

If you like your STEM activities in the outdoors with experiments that are primarily “kitchen science,” STEM in traditional Scouting is for you. The Nova Awards program isn’t going anywhere, and it’s a great way to increase STEM participation.

If you like your STEM activities in a lab with experiments that are primarily “laboratory science,” the new STEM Scouts program is for you. (That is, assuming you’re in one of the pilot councils. If not, wait until the program rolls out to your area.) Read more about STEM Scouts on its official site.

If you like both (and are eligible for membership in both), you should join both! You would need to pay fees for each program, just like if you were a member of an Exploring post and Venturing crew.

What’s the same?

Both programs…

  • Use experts in STEM to make sure our youth are getting the latest and greatest info.
  • Count members the same way toward Journey to Excellence (JTE) score. In other words, a boy in a STEM Scouts lab counts the same as a boy in a Boy Scout troop.
  • Use the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
  • Will have programs at the BSA’s national high-adventure bases. The Summit Bechtel Reserve, for example, offers classes for STEM Scouts, while Philmont Scout Ranch has special STEM Treks for members of troops, crews, teams or ships.

Final thought

With STEM Scouts joining Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Venturing, the BSA is doubling down on its efforts to deliver programs that meet the needs of today’s young people wherever they are.

And by incorporating STEM elements throughout all programs, the BSA is helping young people become Prepared. For Life. Through STEM.

About Bryan Wendell 3269 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.