STEM Scouts Expanding . . . to our Backyard

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Patrick Sterrett, our Crossroads of America Council Scout Executive, spoke to the College of Commissioner Science at Belzer’s Activity Center on June 6, 2015.  He covered a variety of topics, but one of them had a direct impact on our local council: the introduction of a pilot program for STEM Scouts.STEM Scout Logo

Patrick described the traditional scouting program as “outdoor scouts.” To reach more youth, BSA and our Council are piloting a new “indoor scouts,” called “STEM Scouts.” Patrick reports that the Council is excited to be a part of this project. It has required the acquisition of a Vortex lab.

Since you might get some questions about “What are the Boy Scouts doing?” here is a repeat of some information from Bryan on Scouting.

After a successful pilot in East Tennessee Council, the BSA has decided to expand the program to 12 councils:

  • Capitol Area Council
  • Catalina Council
  • Circle Ten Council
  • Connecticut Rivers Council
  • Crossroads of America Council
  • Denver Area Council
  • Garden State Council
  • Greater St. Louis Area Council
  • Middle Tennessee Council
  • Pathway to Adventure Council
  • Sam Houston Area Council
  • Samoset Council

STEM Scouts are boys and girls in third through 12th grade. They’re split into three divisions:

  • Elementary school (third through fifth grade)
  • Middle school (sixth through eighth grade)
  • High school (ninth through 12th grade)

Instead of packs or troops, STEM Scouts are grouped into “laboratories,” which can be shortened to “labs.”

They meet weekly, after school, for hands-on, fun activities organized into four- to six-week modules that cover a ton of fun STEM topics.

April McMillan and Trent Nichols (pictured) serve as national directors of STEM programs. On the STEM Scouts site, they shared their vision for this new BSA program.

A few highlights:

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. 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.


  • STEM Scouts will take field trips to relevant places and have weekly interactions with STEM professionals.
  • Labs are chartered to area sponsors.
  • Labs are led by volunteers, and those volunteers do not necessarily have to be STEM professionals.
  • The cost for a year is $150, which includes lab instruction, T-shirt, a discount on a lab coat, safety goggles, lanyard and some appropriate informational materials. STEM Scout uniform
  • The team behind STEM Scouts is led by April McMillan and Trent Nichols.

The visually appealing STEM Scouts website is live, and you can read the STEM Scouts blog to watch how the pilot program is progressing.

In a later article in Bryan on Scouting, he discusses some of the similarities between the programs:

What’s the same?

Both programs…

  • Use experts in STEM to make sure our youth are getting the latest and greatest info.

  • Count members the same way toward Journey to Excellence (JTE) score. In other words, a boy in a STEM Scouts lab counts the same as a boy in a Boy Scout troop.

  • Use the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

  • Will have programs at the BSA’s national high-adventure bases. The Summit Bechtel Reserve, for example, offers classes for STEM Scouts, while Philmont Scout Ranch has special STEM Treks for members of troops, crews, teams or ships.

Feel free to let us know your comments below.