24 February, 2016
If you are planning to create your own Outdoor School program, here are some common questions about starting such program:
- Where will you go?
Look for a facility in range of your school that will foster the experience of being away and unplugged. Church organizations, YMCA camps, Boy and Girl Scout facilities, and state parks all are good places to look for a site. Having a site that you can feel connected to over time really helps build continuity in your program.
- How will you run the program?
You can operate the program yourself or pay a staff to facilitate your experience. A typical three-day program can cost almost $200 per student. Allocate about $45 per student because if teachers and parents run the program.
- What will you do at Outdoor School?
There is no set Outdoor School curriculum. When considering the budget, make sure that you also take into account the subjects and food. Although there is no set curriculum, you should modify your field studies and how you do the food program. You have to be flexible to the site. Match your field studies to the location. Try not to do things that you could do at school. Really take advantage of being outside, and match your activities to the unique features of the site. Any biome will work: ocean shore, forest, alpine, desert, prairie — it’s all good! Just get them outside and learning. Reach out to local experts; find regional scientists that manage those areas, and look to them for help.
- What is the appropriate way to start?
If a week, three days, or even an overnight seems too hard to get off the ground, a one-day trip might be the best way to get started. Lower stress, easier facilitation, and gentle entry are all good things. Starting small means that you will be likely to have an early success. Success builds upon itself and leads to bigger outcomes. A great problem to have is people wanting more of the experience, rather than being overwhelmed and turned off by the whole affair.
- Who is already doing it?
Find someone in your area that has Outdoor School, and visit their program. Someone locally has possibly figured out some of the answers already. Find them, and observe what they do. If there is nothing near your area, look to state and regional sources to find a model that works for you. If you can’t find what you like, be a trailblazer and start your own program. Begin from what is possible, and in ten years, you will have an awesome program that you can be proud of and that others are trying to follow. Your kids will thank you for years to come!