Life By Leadership | Qualities of a Great High School Outdoor Education Program

Qualities of a Great High School Outdoor Education Program

Outdoor education is typically thought of as part of an elementary school curriculum, but outdoor education and non-traditional education settings can be an effective way for high schoolers to learn—in ways conventional approaches might not be able to do. 

Benefits of Outdoor Education High School Programs

Unlike traditional school settings, high schools with outdoor education programs are “rich in opportunities to push past perceived limits, utilize teamwork and communication skills, and practice problem-solving skills with real-world applications. Evidence suggests that spending time in nature can ease symptoms associated with ADHD and learning disabilities, and we find this to be true.”

Outdoor education is linked to a wide variety of positive results and benefits in areas such as: 

  • Overall school performance
  • Physical, mental, and social health
  • Reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and ADHD
  • Emotional and behavioral development

For these reasons, it’s worth exploring outdoor education for your students or child if you haven’t already—especially if they’re struggling with traditional learning styles. Every student is teachable—it’s just a matter of finding the right approach to excite and engage them. 

Different approaches within a classroom can be helpful, but outdoor education or adventure education can be an effective supplement to your curriculum. 

What Do You Do During Outdoor Adventure Learning at Pali Institute? 

There are a variety of activities students can participate in during adventure education—especially at dedicated outdoor education programs like Pali Institute. These activities often include wilderness journeys such as: 

How to Implement Outdoor Learning into Your own Curriculum

If you don’t live near a fully developed and accredited outdoor education program like Pali Institute for your high schoolers, you may want to consider how to incorporate outdoor learning into your existing curriculum. Use Edutopia’s guide to launching an outdoor learning program to get started: 

1. Start with “Why”

What are your goals for creating an outdoor education program for your high school? Determine where your priorities lie—is your focus going to be on outdoor expeditions or adventures, environmental science, or just creating outdoor learning spaces? 

2. Make it relevant. 

Once you’ve established why you’re creating your outdoor high school program, be sure to align the program with the school, district, or state standards and/or strategic goals of the school. Consider all the relevant stakeholders involved, not just the outdoor education instructors but also —faculty and staff, administration, alumni, district/state officials, board of trustees, and parents. Learn to be fluent in the language of your key decision-makers. It will pay off in the long run.

3. Learn from others. 

More often than not, the program you desire to create is already in place at another school. The outdoor community is incredibly collaborative and willing to assist fellow enthusiasts. 

4. Consider locations, scheduling, and funding.

Traditionally, the biggest barriers to experiential education in high school settings are adequate locations, schedules, and funding. Proactively identifying your needs while researching and proposing some solutions within these three realms up front is essential when both launching a new program and modifying an existing one.

5. Crawl, walk, run.

When in doubt, start small. Under-promise and over-deliver. If this is a new program, focus on providing early evidence of success in order to justify follow-on sustainment or expansion.

(Edutopia’s 8 Simple Steps to Launching an Outdoor Learning Program, 2021)

Visit the Outdoor Education Experts

If you can make the trip with your high schoolers, visiting camps like Pali will ensure you and your students get the most out of their outdoor education experience. 

It can be overwhelming and time-consuming to schedule inadequate learning time outdoors as a busy parent or teacher, especially on top of existing work and school schedules. That’s why outdoor science camps exist. Let the expertly trained staff handle everything from teaching classes to facilitating outdoor activities and monitoring student safety. 

Check out our Outdoor Education Frequently Asked Questions

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