Research

Confused about STEM and Scouting?

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As the Boy Scouts of America has put increasing stress on the buzz-phrase “STEM” or “Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics,” more scouts and scouters are confused.

STEM in Scouting Logo
STEM in Scouting/Nova Logo

There is the old-line merit badges, belt loops, and activity pins that have been science-focused since the founding of BSA in 1910. There have been additions and subtractions throughout. Now that category of interests has been labeled as “STEM.” The relatively new STEM program in this category is the Nova and Supernova Program. So we have STEM in Scouting.

Just last year BSA and our Council launched a new program called “STEM Scouts.” These

STEM Scout Logo
STEM Scouts Logo

new units are organized into “Labs” instead of Packs, Troops, Crews, Teams, Ships, or Posts. They are mentored by scouters called “Lab Managers,” instead of Cubmasters, Scoutmaster, Advisors, etc. Some have lovingly referred to it as “Indoor Scouts.”

The differences between the two programs sometimes needs explaining. This month Scouting Magazine gives it a shot.

This confusion will increase as more of our youth discuss their interests in STEM. Learn the differences so that you can be a better mentor when the topic arises.

Tufts University’s Study on Whether Scouting Works

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Dr Richard Lerner has been doing a 2.5 year longitudinal study near his school of randomly selected 1800 scouts and 400 non-scouts. He started by studying the boys as the entered scouts. He was setting a benchmark as to whether scouting changes boys character. Dr. Lerner’s final report is out. The summary is available at Scouting Magazine’s website.

The results are stunning. It shows in “a compelling way,” according to Dr Lerner, that the BSA has a significant ways in a least six characteristics:

  1. Trustworthiness;Graphs on comparison of results
  2. Helpfulness;
  3. Kindness;
  4. Obedience;
  5. Cheerfulness;
  6. Hopefulness.

So what about being solely focused on sports? Unfortunately, the sports-focused kids took a hit in how well the kids prioritize values, particularly in their priorities in caring for other people. They are not as interested in other people’s well-being, as were scouts. This effect becomes more pronounced as the boys stayed in scouting.

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News from Council Operations Meeting

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Last night, Tuesday, October 20th, Council held their semi-annual Operations Meeting. North Star was represented by Mark Pishon as District Advancement Chair, Brian Crow as District Camping Chair, District Commissioner Jeff Heck, and District Executive Con Sullivan. We were not able to cover the break out sessions for Programming, Family Friends of Scouting, Activities, or Communications due to lack of representation.

Vice President for District Operations Stroh Brann opened the meeting. As a past Wood Badge Course Director, he recognized our most recent past Wood Badge Director Jason Creighton of currently of Del-Mi District, formerly of our own Pack 358.

Carolyn Small recognized one of our recent White Stag Course Directors (whose name I did not catch).

They then had a short introduction of the STEM Scout program which is currently rolling out in beta testing in the Crossroads IMG_1852of America Council. One of its District Executives Zach White announced that the Council took delivery of the new Vortex truck the previous day. I had an opportunity to walk through it. The tools’ delivery is expected in the near future. IMG_1851The STEM DE told us a little bit more about the program. The unit in STEM Scouts is a called a “Lab.” The first “Lab Manager” position specific training is November 2nd from 1 pm to 5 pm at the Scout Center. This a great opportunity to learn the program from the inside.

Break-out Session Reports

Membership. The Council Commissioner and the Membership Committee held a joint break out to discuss recruitment and retention. Field Services Director Rob Hemmelgarn provided data on recent trends in the Council for the past 5 years. In that period of time, the retention rate has improved from 66.6% year-over-year in 2010 to 69.2% in 2014. Current projections for 2015 are 70.9%. We are doing an increasingly better job of retaining scouts once we recruit them.

The bad news is that our recruiting and market penetration is down markedly in that same period of time. In 2010, we had 903 traditional scout units. In 2014, we had 757: a loss of 146 units across the council. In 2015, we are projected to loss another 50. This unit loss has had a direct impact on scout recruitment. In 2010, we recruited 9,307 new scouts. In 2014, we recruited 6,779. In 2015, we hope to stay level, but we have only recruited 5,104 as of September 30, 2015.

Many ideas were thrown around about the cause of problems, but the numbers seem to indicate that poor Tiger Cub and other Cub recruiting is hurting all programs. Since 95% of Boy Scouts come from Cub Scouts, this Cub Scout recruiting problem is having a cascading effect on all scouting programs as the years pass.

Rob reported that nearly all youth programs from scouts to athletics are reporting similar declines. Questions were raised about financial explanations. Rob reports that the professional literature is pushing the notion that it is attributable to video games. This writer wonders whether the video game explanation is just a symptom of financial issues. Video games have a larger up-front fixed cost and smaller costs to continually upgrade or add games. It requires no additional time away from home. It allows parents who are busy at work to make sure their kids are occupied with a significant investment of time from the parent. This works well in financially struggling households to allow more work time without additional child care costs or investments in time and effort.

The question in recruitment has a marketing component, a sales component, a training component, and a first-60 days retention component. These components were all alluded to but not answered.

Upcoming Council Events

The next Council meeting is the Cub Scout Promotional Team Kickoff on October 29th at Camp Belzer. November 2, 2015 is the first day of Cub Scout Camp registration for summer 2016.

Council has meetings on November 15th and December 15th for the Activities and Training Committees and the Commissioners at the Scout Center. Start time is 7:00 pm.

The Governor’s Luncheon is December 14th at the JW Marriott hotel.