STEM Support and the Order of the Arrow

By Reed Powell

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative has become more prevalent in Scouting programs across the country in the 21st century. This initiative aims to introduce Scouts of all ages to these important fields through merit badges and special awards. And all across the nation, lodges and sections have taken on this initiative and are incorporating it into their programs.

The U.S. Department of Commerce says STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations. Merit badges are an opportunity for youth to explore exciting careers, such as Aviation, Chemistry, Electronics, Digital Technology, Nuclear Science and Robotics merit badges. Lodges can put on “merit badge workshops” and bring in scientists and counselors to teach badges to boys. This is also a great way to expose Scouts and parents to the Order of the Arrow. Helping them towards the new STEM/NOVA Awards is a fantastic service that lodges can provide to Scouts.

But Boy Scouts are not the only ones who can benefit from STEM. The future of the Order is Cub Scouting—as Cubs will soon cross over into Boy Scouts and become Arrowmen—and STEM is a great way to get Cub Scouts active. 2012 National Chief John Rehm suggests that lodges should host STEM days for Cub Scouts. Lodges can host a “pin college” where Cub Scouts can earn Astronomy, Mathematics, Computers, and Science belt loops. Webelos Scouts can earn the Engineer, Scientist and Geologist activity pins and invite scientists to have the Cubs do a fun experiment such as making a lava lamp or invisible ink. By having a presence at events and giving Cubs something to look forward to in Scouting. this is a great way for lodges to have an impact on the Cub Scout program. Arrowmen can also help at events. This past summer, I was the youth responsible for the science station at my district's Cub Scout day camp, teaching about the ecosystem, endangered species and rockets. It was a fun way to help out and implement STEM at the same time.

There are also activities for current Arrowmen, and lodges and sections to incorporate STEM in their own program in unique ways. Section C-5A had an astronaut speak at its conclave, and SR-7B hosts OAX, where over a thousand boys come for a day to see STEM exhibits, both local and national, offer insight on hundreds of programs, organizations, companies and activities. These exhibits give Scouts hands-on activities and possibly spark a passion that could last a lifetime. Steve Kerr, lodge adviser and scientist at Archroma, says that “the STEM program for the OA is what you make it.” Lodges can have STEM-based fellowships and sections can have STEM based conclaves, like Ma-Nu Lodge who hosted Charlie Dry, a NASA test astronaut, as its guest speaker this past year. Having an astronaut speak at your lodge banquet is probably much exciting than your lodge adviser speaking! These are just some of the ways that STEM has been implemented in the Order of the Arrow across the country. Therefore, if you are looking for something new to do at your next lodge or section event, try working with your council’s STEM coordinators to create an innovative and exciting program that everyone will enjoy.

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