Great Smoky Mountain Council of BSA launches STEM program
KNOXVILLE—The Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America has been granted permission by the National Executive Board to test a proof of concept called STEM Scouts (science, technology, engineering, and math), which for now, is only open to East Tennessee youth.
The program shows youth from elementary through high school how to apply STEM in their everyday lives and encourages them to develop those experiences into a future career. The program uses the Scout Oath and Scout Law as its cornerstone.
The STEM Scouts are split into three divisions: elementary school (third through fifth grade), middle school (sixth through eighth grade), and high school (ninth through 12th grade). A successful proof of concept could have nationwide implications as the BSA gets boys and girls excited about STEM.
“Specialized programs are not new to the Boy Scouts,” said Michael Ramsey, BSA marketing director. “In fact, the concept dates back as early as 1913 with the creation of Sea Scouting. We’re optimistic this will take off and have positive outcomes for youth everywhere.”
“The STEM Scouts program reflects the Boy Scouts of America’s values and its commitment to STEM while offering boys and girls a new kind of Scouting experience,” said Larry Brown of the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which includes Knox and surrounding counties. “By showing Scouts that STEM is fun, we can encourage them to enter STEM-related career fields and potentially help fill the future need for workers with these skills in Tennessee.”
STEM Scouts are grouped into “laboratories,” and the first pilot laboratories began in March at the Clayton-Bradley Academy in Maryville followed by Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge. UT-Battelle LLC, which operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, chartered Oak Ridge High School’s lab and has agreed to serve as the chartered organization for other labs in the pilot. The next labs will begin this fall at public and private schools around the area.
“Two of our staff, April McMillan and Trent Nichols, have been very involved with Scouting and won support to design and launch the STEM Scouts program, which centers on a topic of great interest to any business or organization, particularly those that conduct research and development,” ORNL Director Thom Mason said. “UT-Battelle has supported local Scouting for years, and we’re glad to take part in this effort to attract more boys and girls to STEM studies and professions.”
In addition to weekly meetings and four- to six-week modules that cover a variety of disciplines, the STEM Scouts program includes a mobile STEM laboratory and a STEM Scouts activity center.
“This scouting differs from the traditional outdoor-oriented scouting program in that it focuses on these specific fields,” said Trent Nichols, national co-director of STEM Programs. “STEM Scouts also instills important values within the program and provides opportunities for character building,” added April McMillan, the other national co-director of STEM Programs.
While there are no ranks in STEM Scouts, youth can earn both participation and achievement awards, allowing all youth to get involved to the extent that they are able. An online, peer-reviewed BSA scientific journal will give STEM Scouts the opportunity to publish and share excellent work. Field trips and weekly interactions with STEM professionals will provide participants with an inside look at how their STEM skills can be put to use.
This local proof of concept builds upon the BSA National Council STEM initiatives and is part of the Great Smoky Mountain Council program on a trial basis. The BSA National Council provides program materials and support for more than 280 local councils that administer the Scouting program. Those who are interested in signing up for STEM Scouts should contact [email protected], or visit www.stemscouts.org to learn more about the program.
About the Great Smoky Mountain Council
The Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America works to serve others by helping instill values in young people and in other ways prepare them to make ethical choices over their lifetime in achieving their full potential. The council serves several thousand youth in the core program of Cub Scouting, the foundation for the character and values programs of Scouting. Almost 11,000 young people are served by the council.
About STEM Scouts
STEM Scouts is a brand new proof of concept in East Tennessee that focuses on fun and exciting opportunities for elementary through high school students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It encourages the natural curiosity of members and their sense of wonder about different STEM fields. This program is designed to place emphasis on showing youth how to apply STEM in their everyday lives, develop leadership skills and encourages them to develop those experiences into a future career by giving them the opportunity to connect with STEM professionals. It is designed to be fast-paced, thought-provoking and most importantly, FUN.