While it has become an increasingly hot topic in recent years, the BSA has been engaged in STEM-like activities right from the start, more than 100 years ago (see Conservation and Scouting). Many of Scouting’s core outdoor, conservation, and merit badge activities relate to STEM topics. For example:
- The BSA’s outdoor nature and conservation programs focus on environmental, geological, or life science STEM topics.
- Pioneering uses many engineering concepts. Math is also used to calculate heights, lengths and construction strengths.
- Beginning in January, half of the service hours for Life rank will to need to be conservation related.
- Merit badges offer many avocational and career activities that expose Scouts to a variety of STEM opportunities, from firefighting to aerospace to medical science. Nearly one of every three has some aspect of STEM in it. Just look at this list:
Fish and Wildlife Management Forestry
Mining in Society
|Model Design and Building
Pulp and Paper
Reptile and Amphibian Study
Signs, SIgnals and Codes
Soil and Water Conservation
- The BSA has developed the Nova Awards program to encourage youth with particular interests in STEM pursuits to further explore these subjects.
- The award offers four parts, one for each element of STEM.
- Recognition includes the Nova Award patch and separate pi (π) devices that attach to the patch.
- Scouts can also pursue the Supernova Award, which has more rigorous requirements, designed to motivate youth and recognize more in-depth, advanced achievement in STEM–related activities.
- The wide variety of STEM–related activities makes this an easy program element to incorporate into a unit plan.
- Look for naturally occurring STEM opportunities in your current program calendar.
- You may also want to suggest STEM opportunities when the patrol leaders’ council plans the program calendar.
- Take a closer look at your local community, college, and online resources, Each of these can make STEM activities more accessible. These include science centers, museums, school resources, STEM corporations, NASA online, TV shows such as “MythBusters,” and many other resources readily available to Scouts.
- BSA’s STEM Resources
- BSA STEM/Nova Website
- STEM/Nova Brochure
- Supernova Mentor Application (must be accompanied by an adult leader application)
- Adult Leader Application
- Supernova Award Application
- Cub Scout Resources
- Webelos Scout Resources
- Boy Scout Resources
- Venturer Resources
- Nova award checklists and Supernova award workbooks (not an official BSA website)
- Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews: Science (vol. 1), Engineering and Mathematics (vol. 2) and Technology (vol.3). Each of these program plans offer your crew, team or troop a full month of STEM activities.
The most important aspect of the STEM program is having fun while exploring topics that interest your Venturers, Varsity Scouts or Boy Scouts.
As you examine your calendar to plan the year include all these resources. Consider the merit badges listed above and your local resources, and who knows, your unit may become a laboratory for budding scientists, engineers and mathematicians. Then be sure sure to tell us about it in the comment section.
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.