To inspire curiosity and help youth unlock their potential, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) expands its popular STEM Scouts pilot program to seven new councils this fall. Available in 20 BSA councils nationwide, STEM Scouts is a coed program designed to captivate young people as they discover science, technology, engineering and mathematics and pique their interest in one of the growing fields. The program is growing at a time when young people are reporting that they want more hands-on real-world experiences when it comes to their STEM education, according to a new report.
“Young people have an incredible sense of curiosity that pairs so well with the studies of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and Scouting, but studies show that they’re not getting what they need to grow their understanding and interest in these subjects,” said Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America. “The BSA is in a unique position to fuel youth curiosity with experiences that answer questions and create a mind of endless ideas. Expanding this program affords us the opportunity to help youth more easily grasp what they learn in the classroom – or in some cases, get ahead of what they will learn in class – allowing them to be more successful with their STEM studies as they reach higher education levels.”
Job opportunities in STEM fields continue to grow and there is currently only one qualified candidate for every two open STEM positions. These careers are only expected to increase, but youth interest, which is strong in younger ages, tends to traditionally wane during high school. In fact, high school seniors are 10 percent less likely to be interested in STEM-related careers than their freshmen counterparts. And, according to ACT, only a quarter of high school seniors are ready for college-level STEM courses, underscoring the need to not only spark an interest in these fields, but help youth better understand what they’re learning in the classroom through the STEM Scouts program.
After a successful initial pilot in Knoxville, Tennessee, the BSA expanded the program to 12 additional councils in 2015. From fall 2015 to spring 2016, STEM Scouts grew by more than 30 percent, a surge that demonstrates how the program is meeting a need among young people and parents to get involved in a values-based learning experience that can grow a child’s understanding of concepts they learn in the classroom.
In fact, Berkman Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas – a school where 85 percent of the student body comes from economically disadvantaged homes – began administering the program in 2015 and saw a year-over-year increase in overall science scores, due in part to the students’ participation in STEM Scouts. The school welcomed the opportunity to bring the innovative STEM program to their students, especially with reports showing that low-income youth can be hindered in taking a path towards a STEM career since they are often less likely to participate in science clubs.
“The STEM Scouts program was a huge success at our school. Students were so excited to go to lab each week and you could see them stretch their thinking to understand complex concepts,” said Principal Kathy Cawthorn. “STEM Scouts helped some of our students improve academically and behaviorally, thanks in part to the values-based program.”
Delivered through sponsoring organizations and augmented with mobile STEM laboratories, STEM Scouts is open to boys and girls in elementary school, middle school and high school. By encouraging girls and boys to participate in STEM activities at a young age, STEM Scouts provides a great opportunity for coed collaboration and gives all youth a chance to become STEM experts.
By expanding STEM learning opportunities and establishing partnerships with businesses and universities, STEM Scouts, through a hands-on learning environment, provides young people with real experience in STEM fields and the opportunity to work closely with STEM educators and experts.
Chief Surbaugh added, “STEM Scouts is one of the many ways the BSA provides fun, life-changing experiences young people can’t get anywhere else. By providing this program through now 20 councils nationwide, we can bring the many benefits of Scouting to more youth who may have never otherwise experienced the program.”
The program is available through the following councils (asterisk denotes councils new to the program in 2016):
- Capitol Area Council; Austin, TX
- Pathway to Adventure; Chicago, IL
- Circle Ten Council; Dallas, TX
- Denver Area Council; Denver, CO
- Connecticut Rivers Council; East Hartford, CT
- Blue Ridge Council; Greenville, SC*
- Pine Burr Council; Hattiesburg, MS*
- Sam Houston Area Council; Houston, TX
- Great Smoky Mountain Council, Knoxville, TN
- Crossroads of America Council; Indianapolis, IN
- Lincoln Heritage Council; Louisville, KY*
- Middle Tennessee Council; Nashville, TN
- Occoneechee Council; Raleigh, NC*
- Hawk Mountain Council; Reading, PA*
- Orange County Council; Santa Ana, CA*
- Greater St. Louis Area Council; St. Louis, MO
- Catalina Council; Tucson, AZ
- Maui County; Wailuku, HI*
- Garden State Council; Westampton, NJ
- Samoset Council; Weston, WI
For more information, visit STEMScouts.org.
 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
About the Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America provides the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training, which helps young people be “Prepared. For Life.®” The Scouting organization is composed of nearly 2.4 million youth members between the ages of 7 and 21 and approximately 960,000 volunteers in local councils throughout the United States and its territories. For more information on the Boy Scouts of America, please visit www.scouting.org.