When it comes to energy, Dennis Showers, professor of education at SUNY Geneseo, wrote the book — Boy Scouts of America’s “Energy Merit Badge Book,” that is.
In celebration of Earth Day, Seneca Waterways Council and SUNY Geneseo recently teamed up to offer workshops to help local Scouts earn their energy and nuclear science merit badges on the college campus.
Both merit badge sessions reached capacity, attracting future scientists, policy advisers and industry leaders eager to learn how they can help make a difference in the world. A total of 35 Scouts from Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties participated in the two workshops: Showers directed the energy badge session while James McLean, associate professor of physics, led nuclear science.
Scouts spent the day engaged in classroom lessons, hands-on activities and facility tours. Through the energy merit badge program, Scouts gained an understanding of energy efficiency and the role energy plays in the future. Scouts working on the nuclear science merit badge learned how matter and forces interact in this field.
“The BSA merit badge program offers Boy Scouts — and beginning in 2019, girls, too — opportunities to gain knowledge in 139 different subject areas,” said Stephen Hoitt, Scout executive/CEO, Seneca Waterways Council Boy Scouts of America. “Given how quickly the energy and nuclear science workshops filled up points to the strong interest in STEM fields as well as our environment. We were thrilled to partner with SUNY Geneseo and professors Dennis Showers and James McLean to introduce the next generation to these critical fields.”
Both sessions featured hands-on activities specific to merit badge requirements. These included a tour of the eGarden, which demonstrates Geneseo’s commitment to sustainability, and the chance to see a Pelletron particle accelerator used to conduct nuclear and plasma physics research — among just a few in the nation located on an undergraduate campus.
“SUNY Geneseo has earned national recognition not only for its commitment to the liberal arts, but also for its success in STEM education and research,” said Stacey Robertson, provost. “We consistently rank as a top producer of undergraduate physics majors in the country, and through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, we’re addressing the critical need for physics teachers in high-needs school districts. We were delighted to share our faculty expertise and facilities with the Seneca Waterways Council on Earth Day weekend, and hope that these workshops sparked a lifelong interest in STEM study and sustainability practices among all merit badge participants.”
Showers’ work editing and writing energy-related BSA merit badge pamphlets — “Atomic Energy” in 1982, “Nuclear Science” in 2004 and “Energy” in 2005 — helped inspire youth to pursue education and careers in science, engineering, technology and mathematics. In the last five years, 16,552 Boy Scouts earned the energy badge and 34,758 earned nuclear science nationwide.
“The ‘Energy Merit Badge Book’ focuses on the leadership needed to make good energy policy decisions, which is based on understanding the science of energy that helps guide personal choices,” said Showers, who is an Eagle Scout. “Everything we do individually and as a society relates to the different forms of energy we use. Starting with atomic energy, I consider this work my most important accomplishment as a science educator to have directly affected the STEM experience for many potential scientists and engineers who got their start in Scouting.”
Across campus, McLean introduced Scouts to nuclear science. Active in Scouting in his youth, he is the chartering organization representative from Geneseo Presbyterian Church to Troop 4070, and has taught at Geneseo since 1999.
“Now more than 120 years after its discovery, nuclear science excites interest not just for the ‘wow’ factor, but for its numerous applications, including medicine and non-fossil fuel energy generation,” McLean said. “It’s exciting to know that Scouts earning their nuclear science merit badge may be embarking on a journey that will lead to even more discoveries in this field.”
Students engaged in the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program at SUNY Geneseo assisted the professors in conducting the merit badge workshops.