The Origin and The Evolution
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was established in 1910 by W.D. Boyce as an exclusive organization for boys, offering them the opportunity to join troops and learn wilderness skills and practical life lessons. Over the years, the organization has undergone significant changes and transformations, becoming a widely inclusive and unique organization with diverse programs ranging from fencing to FBI preparation and STEM education. One of the councils within the BSA, known as the Pathway to Adventure Council (PTAC), is dedicated to providing exceptional experiences and real-world applications to approximately 22,000 scouts across Chicago, Rural Illinois, and Indiana.
The PTAC team is a group of passionate educators, entrepreneurs, and program builders. Their leader, Jeff Isaac, has served as PTAC’s CEO for over a decade. He is one of the first men of color to serve as CEO through three separate consecutive markets. His reason for remaining with this organization is because, as he states,
“No matter how difficult it is, the bottom line is that I have the ability to transform lives. I have the ability to make sure that people, for generations, can live a great life by coming through our program no matter what their socio economics are, no matter what their gender is, no matter what their ethnicity is. They all have the opportunity to be in an excellent program.”
Kellauna Mack, the Field Director in the Gary, Indiana office, speaks about the profound impact of BSA’s programming on the lives of students in her underserved area. Having personally witnessed the positive changes brought about by the program, she shares how her own children went through the program, with her daughter being one of the first members of BSA’s first co-ed troops. She has seen scouts in this program become more confident, self-sufficient, and goal oriented.
Dr. Kristen Vogt, the STEAM and Exploring Director in Chicago, collaborates with numerous schools in and around the city. With a Ph.D. in Curriculum Development, Vogt focuses on assisting schools in designing effective programming tailored to their specific needs. She, too, is motivated by the direct impact she has on scouts’ lives.
Working with Woz
When Jeff discovered Woz ED, he knew it was just what PTAC needed to make STEM education accessible to scouts in the greater Chicago area. He was impressed with the adaptability of the STEM curriculum and carefully organized kits, as well as by the passionate members of the Woz ED team like Karen Young and Billy Garner.
PTAC has successfully integrated various BSA programs with Woz ED STEM and Science Kits to provide scouts with resources and meet educational standards. They collaborate directly with schools across the Midwest, delivering resources to classrooms and offering support in implementing STEM curriculum. Jeff Isaac explains how Woz ED has expanded their capabilities, stating,
“They have helped us to be more than one dimensional.”
Kellauna Mack has found a greater need and capacity for Science kits in Geary schools as they directly correlate to already existing lesson plans such as forensics or weather exploration. Kristen Vogt, has found a space across various schools in the greater Chicago area, for Woz ED STEM kits. Her background in curriculum building and education gives her the ability to assess the direct needs of schools based on size, funding, and functionality. She has found Woz ED curriculum to be fairly easy to implement and effective in its aim to provide hands-on learning experiences.
Scouts who participate in these STEM and Science courses proudly wear white lab coats with a STEM patch. Mr. Isaac explains that this attire instills a newfound sense of confidence within the scouts, as they feel like genuine scientists and specialists. The ability to envision themselves as scientists and engineers is a crucial factor in their academic success and it encourages them to show up for their future selves.
When asked what he believes is the best way to make change in the educational space, Jeff Isaac says,
“You have to make change by offering opportunities that are beyond the norm.”
He also touches on the importance of providing real world applications for young people to experience and learn from as opposed to strictly practical applications like a multiplication table. PTAC’s partnership with Woz ED has allowed scouts access to those non-practical applications that you don’t typically find within a traditional classroom. Not only are they learning faster, they are genuinely excited to attend their STEM classes.
PTAC follows the “classroom integration model,” which involves training traditional elementary, middle, and high school teachers on how to teach STEM using Woz ED kits. These teachers then incorporate the kits into their lesson plans, often integrating them with other subjects. This approach ensures that every scout has the opportunity to learn STEM concepts on a weekly basis.
Facing Challenges and Expanding
The main challenge for PTAC, as for many educational programs, is finding access to funding and resources. The reality of it is that everyone wants to give their scouts access to technology and STEM education, but not every school or district has the resources to make it happen. PTAC runs on the idea of filling the void based on need. What schools are in need of this program and what schools have the ability, financially and otherwise, to start it?
Another challenge, that was discovered in the throws of the Coronavirus, is changing the way STEM is taught from strictly through the computer screen and to a more hands on approach. PTAC leaders have found that this is the important distinction in creating a curriculum that truly prepares scouts for the future and keeps them actively engaged with the material. In this regard, Woz ED has proven to be a valuable resource for PTAC and their partner schools, facilitating a transition towards a more experiential learning model.
PTAC is steadfast in its commitment to providing students with exceptional experiences that equip them for success upon graduation, in the workforce, and in the face of real-world challenges. Under the leadership of Jeff Isaac and with the dedication of individuals like Kellauna Mack and Kristen Vogt, PTAC is making significant strides towards ensuring that unique educational experiences are accessible to all scouts in their respective geographical areas.
The team at PTAC is consistently seeking ways to improve their programs for both teachers and scouts. They understand that growth is a challenging process, but this doesn’t deter them from actively pursuing positive evolution, pushing the boundaries of normalcy, and striving for equity. They remain resolute in their mission to create an educational landscape that fosters equal opportunities for all scouts.
Kristen Vogt tells me,
“We hope to expand it to more schools, as well as expand into different subjects that require both needed and necessary skills in an American workforce, but also keep involving the creative process.”