Southern Arizona students who are interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and spending time with peers outside of the classroom can do both with STEM Scouts.
STEM Scouts is a program through Boy Scouts of America that is available to both boys and girls. It launched nationally in 2014 as a pilot program and serves students in third grade through twelfth grade.
STEM educators at the national level design the curriculum and modules the students work on to ensure they are fun, educational and age-appropriate.
Boy Scouts of America Catalina Council field director Richie Benner explained that there are more than 250 Boy Scouts councils nationwide, and 32 of those councils have STEM Scouts.
The Catalina Council is based in Southern Arizona and offers the program. During its first year, eight students were involved.
Four years later, it grew to 198 students.
Although each Boy Scout organization can decide how they run the program, the Catalina Council has noticed the most success running it during the afternoon as an after-school program.
“We provide the curriculum, the program materials, all that fun stuff and then the organization that actually charters the STEM Scout program will decide,” Benner said. “The scheduling is really customizable to the particular area or organization.”
No matter when each organization decides to offer the program, the boys and girls who participate get to engage with STEM education and activities that can prepare them for their future endeavors.
Research shows STEM jobs are- and will continue to be- in demand.
According to Economic Modeling Specialists International, STEM jobs are projected to grow 13 percent in the U.S. from 2017 to 2027.
Encouraging students to participate in STEM-related programs prepares them for potentially in-demand, high-paying jobs when they enter the workforce.
“It’s going to be a huge component to our workforce in the next 10 to 20 years,” Benner explained.
The activities and experiments include robotics, drones, chemistry and more.
“They get to learn in fun and exciting ways,” Benner said. “They get a fun, hands-on opportunity to enhance what kids are already learning in the school themselves.”
While participants strengthen their STEM skills, they are also developing useful soft skills.
“They get the opportunity to be a lab leader in charge of all 16 kids in the lab, so they get to learn some leadership skills from the very beginning,” Benner explained
In addition to becoming young leaders, the STEM Scouts practice interacting with adults outside of the traditional classroom.
“They definitely do learn a lot of those soft skills- listening, learning, leading,” Benner said.