Outdoor School Summit

 The Outdoor School Summit brings together executive directors, education directors, and other leadership staff from outdoor schools across North America. These centers share the unique challenges of housing and feeding students for multiple days, and the Outdoor School Summit fosters a space to solve problems and build connections in this particular field.

We host the Outdoor School Summit in person every two years, each time at a different location. The next Summit will take place in January 2025; we are in the process of deciding the host organization. Check back here later for more information!

What are Outdoor Schools?

Outdoor schools are educational organizations offering immersive and overnight programs that connect participants to nature and each other. These programs are youth-based and academic, focused primarily on public school partnerships where students and classroom teachers participate for multiple days, sharing educational activities and meals. 

While outdoor schools hold most programs outdoors, they also have indoor spaces such as classrooms, labs, and dining halls to comfortably accommodate students, classroom teachers, and other adult chaperones. Some Outdoor schools have dormitories to host participants overnight.

Outdoor schools are located throughout the US and Canada. They are largely nonprofit organizations, though some are government-affiliated.

The Outdoor School Summit is the single most useful gathering of practitioners in the country for residential EE programs. Imagine all of the biggest challenges you have at your center, and in this one weekend gathering you will leave with ideas and ways to approach all of them ... from people who have been in the same place as you!

— John DiDiego, Education Director, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

Programs at the Summit

Open Space Sessions

The Outdoor School Summit uses an "Open Space" system to conduct the conference sessions. During the event, all participants come together to collectively suggest and select session topics. Summit organizers then create a session schedule for the following two days. Given this system, we invite you to bring management-level and program topics to the Summit to suggest as sessions.

All sessions have a discussion-based format so that everyone can contribute ideas and experiences. If you suggest a topic, you will be asked to facilitate the discussion by introducing the topic and creating a discussion among the participants.

The role of the facilitator is to create fair opportunities for sharing, keep the discussions on track, and make sure everyone has the opportunity to participate. Facilitated discussions are not presentations followed by questions and answers, nor the place where the facilitator is expected to answer all of the questions. Facilitated discussions are an advantage to the facilitator because the discussion requires less formal preparation, and the facilitator does not need to be perceived as the expert.

This system allows you to co-create your Outdoor School Summit experience, and provides the opportunity for you to be an active participant rather than a passive listener. This is also an excellent way for you to get to know your peers and how similar organizations work.

Networking

Here's where you can build a network of professional relationships that will strengthen your work — but don't worry, you won't be milling about in a stuffy environment. The culture of the Outdoor School Summit is engaging, welcoming, and fun, and those qualities shine in our evening networking activities. Expect lively skits and a lot of laughter.

Site Tours

Every participant has the ability to learn in-depth about the organization that hosts the event. Here you can learn directly from your peers in a hands-on capacity, with the opportunity to ask questions while going beyond the theory, and into practice.

FAQs

Curious about the Outdoor School Summit? Here are some frequently asked questions about the event.