by STEM Scouts
By April McMillan and Trent Nichols
This week marks the opening of a very exciting new chapter in Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in East Tennessee. STEM Scouts pilot program is here, and it represents the new frontier in meeting tomorrow’s challenges in education with practical solutions and an eye for the long view.
STEM Scouts is open to local boys and girls in three divisions: elementary school, grades 3-5; middle school, grades 6-8; and high school, grades 9-12. STEM Scouts are grouped into “laboratories,” and the first pilot laboratories began in April at the Clayton-Bradley Academy in Maryville and mid-May at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge.
UT-Battelle, which operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy, chartered the first Oak Ridge High School lab and has agreed to serve as the chartered organization for other labs in the pilot. The new labs will begin at public and private schools around the area.
This program is designed to encourage the next generation of students in area schools in grades 3-12 to take an interest in a STEM curriculum now, so that they may get ready for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in the coming years. A National Science Foundation sponsored study projects that there will be 109,000 STEM jobs in Tennessee by the year 2018. By showing children that STEM learning is fun, we can encourage them to enter STEM-related career fields and put them on the path to success while boosting the spirit of innovation in our region.
The pilot STEM Scouts program is one way to get both boys and girls interested in STEM careers at an early age. Units, called Labs, meet weekly doing hands-on, fun activities organized into 4-6 week modules that cover the vast variety of disciplines encompassed in STEM. 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.
While there are no ranks or badges in STEM Scouts, participants can receive participation and achievement awards for completing Individual Learning Modules that will allow them to perform further experimentation in areas that piques their interest. Youth who participate and complete a group module will receive a participation award. One of the most exciting aspects of the program is the opportunity for the STEM Scouts to publish and share their work through an online, peer-reviewed scientific journal that is in development, giving students a sense of accomplishment and knowledge about research practices.
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.
Starting this week, students will participate in the first STEMology camp of the summer at The MUSE Knoxville. We’ll share a recap and photos next week once the camp wraps up.
The STEM Scouts program relies on area sponsors to host units, which meet weekly during the school year or year round at the discretion of the individual Lab. The first Lab was chartered by the Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy in Alcoa and has been meeting since April. The Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy was delighted to be the Chartered Organization of the very first STEM Scouts Lab in the country. The Great Smoky Mountain Council is the only place that STEM Scouts is being piloted. The second Lab, chartered by UT-Battelle, is at Oak Ridge High School and has been meeting since mid-May.
As always, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about the program or want to learn more.