Sawyer Szkudlarek, a member of Cub Scout Pack 302, is the first in his age group to earn the Dr. Luis Walter Alvarez Supernova Award. (Photo by Sara Arthurs)


Staff Writer

Cub Scouts in Findlay are getting increasingly interested in a new science award, earned by way of research and even experiments.

Marc Kogan, scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America Black Swamp Area Council, said only about 10 boys from the council have earned the Dr. Luis Walter Alvarez Supernova Award in the approximately five years it’s been offered. By contrast, about 90 to 100 boys from the area council become Eagle Scouts each year.

Kogan said Boy Scouts have long had an interest in conservation and environmental science.

“We’ve been doing STEM before it was STEM,” he said.

One student who’s glad to be a part of this tradition is 8-year-old Sawyer Szkudlarek, who attends Northview Primary School. His mother, Kristy, said her son was the first in his age group (second grade) in the 13-county council to receive the award.

Sawyer explained the Supernova Award is about “all the scientists.” To earn the award, he had to research the lives and work of three scientists. Sawyer chose Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. Sawyer was also required to do an experiment. Using two erasers and sliding them down a surface, he demonstrated to his class that the eraser coated in oil went faster than the other, because there was less friction.

Sawyer said he wanted to pursue the award because “I like doing science.” He likes how, in science, you can do things in a certain order and if you get it right, “you can see some pretty cool things.”

Sawyer’s father, Raymond, said a lot of bedtime stories were read about the three scientists, and a few other scientists. Raymond learned some things, too: “I didn’t know that Ben Franklin invented flippers.” The family also learned about Alvarez, the award’s namesake.

The most fun part of earning the award was “doing all the science,” Sawyer said, while the hardest part was writing up the research. His advice to other children pursuing the Supernova is that it does take a lot of time.

Sawyer wants to be a paleontologist and dig up fossils. “And I also want to discover a new dinosaur,” he said. (He doesn’t have a favorite dinosaur, but he said he could tell you about all of them.)

He’s also learned about astronomy, geometry and architecture through Boy Scout-related research. Scouts are encouraged to complete a “Nova” Award before the Supernova, Kristy said.

There’s another Supernova Award available for Webelos, or fourth- and fifth-graders, and Sawyer said he might go for that one when he gets older.

Kogan said the Supernova is a special recognition for Scouts who go “above and beyond.” He said there’s a strong emphasis on STEM education in schools, and Scouts want to support that focus. And, he said, the Scouts are learning skills that will prepare them for the future.

Scouting was founded on the principle of being a “game with a purpose.” Talking to Sawyer, for example, it’s obvious “the excitement that he had. … But he learned so much while he was having fun,” Kogan said.

Tammy Cooper is Cubmaster for Pack 302, of which Sawyer is a member, and said several of her other Scouts are also interested in the award. Some have already worked on their Novas.

Cooper said the kids have learned about space, or how something grows. They might learn “How do you make a boat go without a motor?” Or, what is a lever “and how does it help you? Well, it’s a seesaw,” so you might build a seesaw, or a catapult.

Cooper is in her 25th year volunteering with Cub Scouts and now has grandsons in her pack. She said the Nova and Supernova awards are a way to “watch them learn something new that’s not a video game,” which is rewarding for her as well.

She said Sawyer “just hit the ground running” and that his receiving the medal “sparked a huge interest” in the Supernova among other Scouts and their parents.

Cooper said she hasn’t had a Scout pursue a Nova Award who didn’t have fun along the way. They’re always learning new things, she said, and they’re learning from each other. And, she is “seeing the light bulb turn on.”

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