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Science, Technology, Engineering, Math… and Scouting?

Posted by on Friday, 22 March 2013

Scouting is outdoor adventure like camping, backpacking, climbing and canoeing, right? Does that leave the technology-heavy learning to a realm outside of Scouting? Not exactly.

This video from code.org has been making the rounds of the internet, and it got me thinking about how we teach kids about programming. Take a look…



  • Teamwork is essential? Collaborating and building together?
  • Taking it upon yourself to learn a new skill?
  • Breaking down complex problems into a plan that can be executed in a series of steps?

A few Scouting-related themes seem to resonate throughout the video. These are the same underlying lessons that are taught in a Boy-Led Troop as they plan and execute the outdoor adventures. So does being a Boy Scout make you a better Computer Scientist?


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The STEM encouragement permeate throughout Scouting. Outside of the rank advancement system, merit badges are a significant part of recognition for Scouts. In the Boy Scout program merit badges are designed to introduce Scouts to topics they may not see in other places, and allow them some freedom to pursue things that are interesting to them.

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The Greater Saint Lewis Area Council has quite a page on the STEM programs within the BSA, and have the following list of merit badges that have significant STEM content.

STEM-Related Merit Badges
The National BSA office has deemed the following as STEM related merit badges: Animal Science, Astronomy, Bird Study, Chemistry, Computers, Drafting, Electricity, Electronics, Energy, Engineering, Environmental Science, Forestry, Geology, Insect Study, Inventing, Mammal Study, Medicine, Model design and Building, Nature, Nuclear Science, Oceanography, Personal Management, Photography, Plant Science, Reptile and Amphibian Study, Robotics, Soil and Water Conservation, Space Exploration, Surveying, Veterinary Medicine, and Weather. There are 21 other badges that have fewer STEM-related requirements involved.

There are even more coming. The Game Design merit badge was just launched, and in the next few years there will be Programming, Digital Technology, Animation, Multimedia, Computer-Aided Design, and Advanced Computing. How is that for choices? Even the most tech-savvy Scout can find a challenge in there.


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Well, there’s more. Last year the BSA launched the Nova program for all levels of Scouting, Cub Scouts through Venturing. Activities that can be built into Pack Meetings, Troop campouts, or pursued individually. There are levels of achievement and recognition in a tiered system that encourages Scouts to dig deeper if they are interested. Back in January when Clarke Green and I kicked off ScoutCircle.org we started with a presentation on the BSA’s STEM/Nova program. Take a look at the recording for more information from Lisa Balbes and Matt Myers on how Scouting is incorporating more STEM-related topics into the Scouting program through the Nova and Supernova program.

Scouting is much more than camping, knots and outdoor adventure (though that is a big part). Today’s Scouts also have the opportunity to learn programming, robotics, nuclear science, inventing, and a whole host of other topics.