Delivering the Excitement of STEM at Your Next Day Camp or Family Camp!

Why do boys join Cub Scouts? To go to camp of course! Day camp and family camp-outs are awesome places to deliver the amazing Cub Scout program in the great outdoors! While the Cubs are having a blast with BB shooting, archery, swimming, sports, crafts, and nature hikes, they can also learn something about the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) all around them!

Want to modify some traditional camp activities so they have a new flavor of STEM? Here are some examples:

  • Swimming:
    • Give all the Cubs kick boards and swim fins and have them line up to race. Keep track of their time as they race using only their finned feet and kicking as hard as they can. Now have them take off their fins and race again using only their feet. They will notice a HUGE difference and you can teach them about how the surface area of the fin increases the resistance and pushes them farther through the water with less energy.
    • When the Cubs get out of the water and before they dry off, ask them to notice how their body cools off quicker when it’s wet than when it’s dry. Teach them how evaporation of the water is like their sweat evaporating and taking heat away from their bodies to keep them from overheating.
    • Before they jump into the water, demonstrate buoyancy using a bowl of water and an egg. Put the uncooked egg into the bowl of fresh water. It should sink to the bottom. Now remove the egg and add salt (about one half cup of salt to two and a half cups of water). Mix it to get the salt to dissolve. Now put the egg back in and voila! The egg should be floating on the surface. Salt water is denser than fresh water which is why the egg floats and why the Cubs float easier in the ocean or in a salt water pool than in a lake or fresh water pool.
  • BB Guns and Archery:
    • Explain how trajectory works! Gravity’s pull on the BB or arrow means that the longer the shot, the higher you must aim to compensate to hit your target.
    • When an arrow is nocked and pulled back or when a BB gun is pumped, that is a demonstration of potential energy. When the arrow is released or the BB gun trigger is pulled, the potential energy becomes kinetic energy.
    • When shooting over long distances, factors such as humidity, wind, and the Coriolis Effect (curvature of Earth) can affect where the projectile lands. A person shooting 1,000 yards away must account for the curvature of Earth or his bullet could miss the target by 3-4 inches!
  • Sports
    • How does a basketball bounce? The ball is filled with air (a gas) that is exerting pressure against the inside of the ball. When the ball hits the ground, the air inside is compressed. The gas pushes back against the ground which forces the ball away and back up to your hand.
    • Time the Cubs as they run a predetermined distance. Track a few more timed races and teach them how to calculate their average speed.
    • Teach the Cubs how to calculate a few popular statistics from their favorite team sport such as baseball, football, or soccer. The next time they watch a game with their family, they’ll be able to better understand what the announcers are saying!

These are just a handful of ways to incorporate STEM teaching into the activities that many camps are already doing. Think about every activity you have done in the past and how you can put a STEM twist on it. Remember, STEM is all around us! Every activity can be a STEM activity!

Below are some examples of Nova Award activities that can be added to your camp. To get more details about how the Nova Awards work, a camp representative should attend the Unit STEM Coordinator Training on April 20. If you’d like to see the complete list of requirements for each award, click on the name of the Nova Award below.

NOVA clipartNova Award: Science Everywhere

  • Explain the purpose of fins on a rocket or feathers/fletchings on an arrow
  • Take invertebrate samples from a local stream to see if pollution is present

NOVA clipartNova Award: Down and Dirty

  • Build a model volcano
  • Make a rain gauge or other weather instruments
  • Keep a weather journal for a week
  • Make models of plants or animals that live in a rain forest

NOVA clipartNova Award: Nova WILD!

  • Make drawings of plants, animals, food web
  • Make a diorama of a creature’s habitat
  • Make a bird feeder

NOVA clipartNova Award: Out of This World

  • Host a star party (may only work for a later twilight camp)
  • Build a model Mars Rover
  • Design a moon or Mars base on paper and build a model
  • Make models of solar or lunar eclipses

NOVA clipartNova Award: Swing!

  • Draw and build a lever
  • Look at simple machines on the playground (seesaw)

NOVA clipartNova Award: 1-2-3 Go!

  • Calculate your weight on other planets
  • Learn how to measure the height of a building or flagpole
  • Learn about secret codes and then create your own

Camp is a great place to host STEM activities and awards. STEM activities can be added as single stations, existing activities can be given a STEM twist, or you can completely overhaul your camp and make it 100% about STEM. You can also incorporate awards such as the STEM-related Adventures or the Nova Awards into your schedule. Just keep in mind that the camp should be all about fun and exciting experiences, not the less exciting requirements that sometimes go along with advancement. Focus on the fun requirements and let the Cub Scout pack leadership worry about the other requirements. Official advancement awards should be recorded and awarded by the pack, not by the camp leadership.

Finally, if you want to incorporate STEM into your camp, put some real thought and energy into it! Simply renaming a program area with a catchy, sciencey title doesn’t cut it. If you don’t know how to bring STEM into an activity, ask a science teacher, brainstorm it with your other Cub Scout leaders, or feel free to get in touch with us! We’re happy to help you figure out ways to make STEM a prominent theme at your day camp or family camp.

For more information or suggestions about STEM at camp, visit or email Have a great camp!

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