STEM Trek turns Philmont into the coolest science lab ever

STEM activities thrive in any setting.

But combine elements of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) with the magic of Philmont, and you’ve got a recipe for something truly incredible.

It’s called the STEM Trek, and it blends Philmont’s famous backcountry programs with STEM-focused activities sure to inspire, entertain and, yes, educate Scouts and Venturers.

Educate? Yes, but this is light years from science class. Sarah Burgess, Philmont’s associate director of conservation, says Scouts and Venturers on the STEM Trek have so much fun they don’t realize they’re learning.

“If youth discover an activity they love at Philmont and realize there is STEM within it, they will, hopefully, take that positive experience with them and apply it the next time they are tackling a textbook subject of the same nature,” she says. “It’s a wilderness and learning adventure that lasts a lifetime.”

The 12-day STEM Treks, offered twice this summer, are open to young men and young women ages 14 to 20.

Like Philmont’s other individual treks, a young man or young woman doesn’t need to form a crew to go. He or she simply shows up and joins a co-ed crew of like-minded teens. Translation: Lifelong friendships will be formed.

Parents can rest easy knowing the legendary Philmont Rangers provide co-ed adult leadership to their Scouts/Venturers. These Rangers are selected because they either have a STEM background or they’re currently pursuing college degrees in STEM fields.

Key details

Who: Registered Boy Scouts or Venturers who are 14 years old by date of participation or 13 and completed 8th grade, but not yet 21 by its conclusion.

What: STEM Treks illuminate Philmont’s already awesome backcountry programs by adding STEM insight. That’s because of the nature of STEM participants, who are interested in the physics of shooting guns, the engineering principles of laying railroad track or the chemistry of a blacksmith’s forge. Rangers and backcountry staff take a little more time to dive into the concepts that interest Scouts and Venturers. The STEM Trek incorporates guest speakers who serve as experts on STEM topics throughout the trek — last year’s crew got expert sessions with a gunsmith, forester, geologist and blacksmith.

When: In 2015, sessions are July 16 to 28 (northbound route) and July 22 to Aug. 3 (southbound route)

Where: Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Specifically:

  • North country itinerary: Includes climbing Baldy and going to Philmont’s newest backcountry camp, Metcalf Station — a railroading paradise
  • South country itinerary: Includes visits to several kinds of living history homestead/mountain man camps, fly-fishing and climbing the Tooth of Time on the final day

Why: STEM at Philmont. Need I say more?

How much: $855, which includes everything they’ll need for 12 days at Philmont. There are scholarships available for as many participants who need them. Same goes for all of Philmont’s individual opportunities — the alumni association has dedicated funds to make sure no young person misses out.

Learn more and sign up: At Philmont’s website. 

About Bryan Wendell 2843 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.