by STEM Scouts
Originally posted on Wausau Daily Herald on October 7, 2015.
WESTON — Local students will soon be working alongside scientists and other professionals through a new Boy Scouts of America program, STEM Scouts.
The Samoset Council is one of 12 councils across the nation chosen to launch STEM Scouts in Marshfield, Stevens Point, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids.
The program — open to boys and girls — offers students hands-on experience to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics by working in business labs and mobile laboratories to learn and conduct experiments alongside scientists, teachers and other local STEM professionals.
Registration events began this week in the Wisconsin Rapids area with an overwhelming response, said Jeff Ottosen, executive director of the Samoset Council.
“We had an event Tuesday night in Wisconsin Rapids,” Ottosen said. “We were hoping for a few kids and there were 45. The response has been incredible.”
The Samoset Council qualified for the national program because there is a growing STEM-related industry in central Wisconsin along with the educational facilities to support STEM Scout programs in Marshfield, Stevens Point, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids, he said.
“It’s quite an honor,” Ottosen said. “Of all the sites chosen, we’re the smallest market and the only one in Wisconsin. We have good support from our local businesses and communities to makes this a success.”
Careers in STEM-related fields are growing and providing new job opportunities, he said.
“By bringing these opportunities to kids in central Wisconsin, we can help students realize that a career in STEM can be fun,” Ottosen said.
The Boy Scouts are partnering with local businesses, schools and universities to give STEM Scouts real-life experience and opportunities to work with STEM educators and professionals, Ottosen said.
“This is exciting. Kids just love it,” said Amanda Flannery, STEM coordinator for the Samoset Council. “Helping youngsters find excitement in STEM at an early age will give them a foundation to build on, in turn leading them into a career path they may not have realized.”
STEM Scouts will conduct experiments and learn in a thought-provoking and fun atmosphere, Flannery said. Scouts in the high school level will have opportunities to have their work reviewed by scientists and engineers, she said.
STEM Scouts is open to boys and girls from third through 12th grades with weekly meetings where four- to six-week modules will cover a variety of STEM disciplines, Flannery said. STEM Scouts are organized into groups of eight to 15 youth called a lab, with each lab chartered by a community organization or business. A lab is run by volunteers called lab managers and associate lab managers, she said.
There’s a growing need throughout central Wisconsin for employees adept at STEM-related skills, said Richard Breen, who will serve as one of the volunteers in a lab based at Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids. A STEM Scouts lab for high schools students will meet at the college at 6 p.m. Wednesdays. Breen is an electronics instructor at Mid-State and member of the Incourage Community Foundation’s business and education committee.
Local businesses say they need applicants with good soft skills and STEM skills, Breen said. Soft skills include good communication and decision-making abilities, while STEM skills include education in the science, technology, engineering or math fields. Partnering with STEM Scouts to encourage youth to explore and learn about STEM is a way to promote the fields and develop interest among children, he said.
“STEM Scouting provides the opportunity for young people to learn … from professionals in an environment that supports character development as well,” Breen said.
Businesses and schools partnering with Samoset Council to offer STEM Scouting labs include Northcentral Technical College, Wausau Children’s Museum, Verso Corporation, Renaissance Learning, Prevention Genetics, Boys and Girls Club and some local schools. The Samoset Council has raised more than $70,000 for supplies and experiment kits for the STEM Scouts program, with $20,000 donated by the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin and $50,000 from long-time Samoset Council supporter and former scout, Al Hanna.
The Boy Scouts of American piloted STEM Scouts in 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee, where it served about 400 students and had an attendance rate of more than 90 percent. Schools in the area reported students who had previously struggled in STEM areas had improved their understanding of the subjects and became more interested in science, math and technology, Flannery said.
“It was a tremendous success and BSA wanted to extend the program,” Flannery said. Through a competitive application process the Samoset Council was one of 50 submitted by councils seeking to offer STEM Scouts. Boy Scouts of America includes 270 councils.
Get involved with STEM Scouts
STEM Scouts is open to boys and girls in three divisions: children in third through fifth grades, sixth through eighth grades and ninth through twelfth grades.
For more information check the website www.STEMScouts.org/Weston, or call Amanda Flannery at 715-355-1450.
Reporter Liz Welter can be reached at 715-898-7008, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter as @welter_liz.