For a group of children in Grayson County, scouting is not about camping or learning to tie knots. The Denison Public Library recently sponsored a local chapter of the STEM Scouts, a new pilot group for the Boy Scouts of America.
The Denison STEM — or science, technology, engineering and mathematics — group falls within the Circle 10 Boy Scouts Council, which is based in Dallas/Fort Worth. Within Circle 10, there are only 29 other STEM Scouts groups.
“It is a controlled group in scouting,” STEM Scouts Executive Maribeth Hughes said. “It’s coed under Boy Scouts of America. It is going into its third full year in Scouts.”
The Denison group was founded in the spring.
“We have a heart for science here,” Denison Library Programming Manager Joyce Ullah said. “We have for several years. When Kimberly came on board, she really wanted us to sponsor the STEM Scouts.”
The group is open to children in third through eighth grades. This year the third and fourth graders will perform modules relating to astronomy, light and dark, robotics, archaeology and sound, and the fifth through eighth grade group will study space, darkness and light, robotics and they will learn to build a mobile application.
“STEM is something that opens the world to children,” Denison Library Director Kimberly Bowen said. “We have this here on a weekly basis and we get children active in science, technology, engineering and math learning. Children need to see that they can be scientists. They are not limited. There are a lot of different fields that fall under science. When they realize that, they can see all the different career paths that they can take.”
The fee to be a STEM Scout is $200 a year and interested children can help earn their fee money through scouting fundraisers.
“The STEM Scouts are putting the kids in front of the technology and science field, but give them the scouting values,” Hughes said. “It makes them better people. It makes them better citizens. We are taking these traditional scouting values that we apply to camping — we are now applying to the STEM field.”
While traditional Boy Scouts receive scouting badges, STEM Scouts receive digital badges after completing activities.
“Normally in scouting it is up to the unit to go get what they need when they want to do something,” Hughes said. “With this program, there is a set curriculum and everything that is used for that program is shipped to them. That guarantees the quality of the program. We are opening the door for the children. It is more of them doing everything.”
STEM Scouts is meant to introduce children to basic science concepts, bring mathematical awareness and show how knowledge in these areas is relevant to school and could lead to possible career choices, Hughes said.
“If nothing else, they are maybe a little more informed,” she said. “We want to make it fun, but they are also subject to Scout objectives and Scout law. We want them to ask questions. Everything right now is immediate and that is electronically. That means that they are not totally getting the concept every time or they are not seeing the consequences. We want them to be able to see and experience this. This is hands on.”
As part of the program, children are being taught how to journal and write down their findings as a scientist would.
“In this learning process, children are learning the math methodology and the scientific method,” Hughes said. “We do not want to cram it down their throats the way we would do in school. If they get into the habit of writing as they need to now, when they get into the junior high and high school programs, which are a little more intense, they have a better feel about what these papers should look like. The children will get constructive feedback and they will get guidance through the Boy Scouts.”
Hughes said that with that guidance, children will learn how to present their papers to peer-reviewed academic journals. In high school, STEM Scouts are able to work toward a high achievement similar to the Eagle Scout.
“We will also have the nautilus award, which is for a high school kid,” said. “It will involve service as well as individual learning modules in science and engineering and technology. Math kind of is encompassing it all. The other benefit is that STEM Scouts have the opportunity to be peer reviewed and also published.”