Outdoor Lab has been enriching the lives of sixth-graders and high school students in Jefferson County since 1956.
Each year, we complete approximately 60 week-long camps, serve 35 middle schools, provide over 15,000 nights under the stars for young people, recruit over 900 High School Leaders, and support 40 Interns on campus. In total, we serve over 5,000 sixth-grade students, connecting them – often for the first time – to the outdoors. There are very few programs in the country that operate at a scale as large, have such inspirational and emotive campuses, provide the depth and breadth of programming, and tie back to the curriculum being taught at home schools.
Specifically, Outdoor Lab is impactful because it carefully integrates proven youth development models, including experiential education, life-skills training, outdoor recreation, and mentorship. The curriculum and program format work in tandem to help students deepen their understanding of classroom curricula through hands-on experiences, realize their leadership potential, and advance social-emotional learning. Though each group experience is unique, we ensure consistency and alignment with our mutual objectives of teaching environmental science, physics, and astronomy, while also imparting civic-mindedness, self-esteem, self-efficacy, empathy, and personal responsibility.
Outdoor Lab is vital to our community as a fun rite of passage and an institution that positively develops our young people into tomorrow's well-rounded, confident, and empathetic leaders. More importantly, it helps students gain much more than knowledge. They gain skills in making a difference and an intrinsic belief that they can. That confidence and empowerment can spill over into other aspects of their lives. Time outside in nature provides myriad health and wellness benefits.
Unfortunately, not every young person growing up in Jefferson County has the same opportunity to experience the benefits associated with a closer connection to nature. In concert with the Outdoor Lab Foundation, the Outdoor Lab Program breaks down barriers to the outdoors for under-resourced populations in the school district by providing a week-long residential camp experience in the mountains no matter which articulation area you reside in.