Founded in 1883 in Glasgow, the Boys Brigade (BB) was the first voluntary uniformed youth movement in the world. As such, there are 380 BB groups (or companies) which meet in Scotland each week, supported by around 3,500 dedicated volunteer leaders.
As a Christian Youth Movement, the BB support young people to reach their full potential by providing opportunities to engage in fun and developmental activities and experiences. From camping and sports to first aid, members are encouraged to make a difference in their communities, with the aim to build confidence, develop skills and make friends.
The former Development Officer for the BB, Ian McCallum, had a passion for STEM, from leading Sleepover events for P4,5 & 6s at the Glasgow Science Centre, to setting up a network of STEM Ambassadors within the BB across Scotland. At present there is a STEM Ambassador in 18 out of their 30 Battalions.
Around 400 young people per year complete the Queen’s Badge, the BB’s highest award. As part of the award participants must attend a skills-based training course to help them with the volunteering component of the Badge. Plans were in place to develop a course to train Queen’s Badge candidates to develop and deliver STEM activities in the Anchor Section (aged 5-8) and Junior Section (aged 8-11). The BB were developing the course whilst SSERC were recruiting pilot centres for the Young STEM Leader (YSLP) pilot, and it was a natural fit to combine the two awards.
“[we] felt that the Level 6 YSLP Award course fitted in best with our requirements. Being at Higher level and having 3 SCQF credit points, [it] comes at the right time for the Queen’s Badge participants, who will be applying for further education places within the next year.
“This we were able to do, adding in a number of practical exercises to meet the outcomes…everything from making music with boomwhackers to making boxes in instructional techniques, creating lungs and lava lamps, boats and bubbles (of the square variety!). There are 7 sessions in the YSLP programme and over the weekend we covered 1-5 and started 6, which involves the young people planning to lead STEM activities. They now have to head back to their companies and complete 4 hours of practical teaching time, before reflecting, reviewing and evaluating what they have achieved. Having completed sufficient training for their Queen’s Badge over the weekend we were unsure how many would go on to complete the award, but the feedback was very positive and hopefully we will have at least a dozen doing so.”
In developing the programme of activities for YSLP, the BB utilised existing King George VI (KGVI) young leaders, who were also signed up as STEM Ambassadors and some helped staff the pilot YSLP award. 13 enthusiastic young people participated fully and provided feedback. The young people created, planned and delivered a STEM activity with their peers and will do the same within their BB company, school, or youth group. When asked if they would pursue YSLP within their own setting, the young people said:
STEM Ambassador Input
Ryan Watson is a Controls Engineer at Peacock Technology, an engineering consultancy firm. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Ryan was always interested in STEM and had already been delivering outreach as part of his work as an engineer, a keen BB leader and a STEM ambassador.
“STEM is really good for the Boys Brigade. Separately, it’s easy to understand what typical STEM subjects are – science, mathematics, technologies – but an integrated STEM activity allows young people to develop skills in problem solving and communication, which may be more interesting and engaging than working in a classroom. The BB is all about teamwork and YSLP marries well to this”.
Part of the benefit of integrating YSLP into the work of the BB is that the programme gives credit to STEM engagement that has already taken place and provides a framework to implement it further based on the YSLP Learning Outcomes. One such activity that Ryan developed involved simulating a manufacturing plant using a Lego® set. As a team-building activity to improve communication in the company section (aged 12-18), each young person was given a separate task within their team, such as delivering instructions, sorting components and assembly. In many companies, designers and manufacturers work separately and need to effectively communicate their thoughts and processes, so this activity was designed to mirror a real working setting. The activity was received positively from the participants, Ryan said they were “excited” and “challenged”.
Part of the benefits of integrating YSLP into Community or Youth groups is that it allows flexibility for the group to continue the excellent STEM engagement they may already be doing and receive credit for it. Alternatively, YSLP is well placed to encourage and promote STEM engagement within centres looking to increase their STEM work. YSLP doesn’t only benefit the recipients of the award; all participants, peers, group leaders and wider communities can be positively influenced by STEM in a fun and engaging way.
As a result of the successful examples of how YSLPP fits in to the work of the BB, we are now offering a dual award. Any BB member who completes YSLP 6 will automatically receive their Queen’s Badge. The YSLP award is proving to be a very positive experience for the BB and we look forward to integrating the programme for all ages.