Outdoor School

Outdoor School is a four-day, residential program for upper-elementary school students, run by Penn State’s nature center, Shaver’s Creek, and staffed by Penn State student counselors. It provides children with a positive, outdoor education experience as they learn about the natural world through hands-on lessons and guided exploration.

Outdoor school learning group

“I realize now that there is so much more to the program than I had originally realized or expected. In fact, the magic and lasting impact of ODS is so unexplainable that it’s hard to even put into words.”
— Laura “Sparrow” Nejako, English/Education

Be an Outdoor School Counselor!

Penn State students can earn 2 credits by participating in Outdoor School (ODS) as cabin counselors. Returning counselors may advance to become Learning Group Leaders and can earn additional credits. Penn State students may also earn volunteer hours to satisfy community service requirements.

To participate in Outdoor School, Penn State students must first submit an application*. (See the sidebar for application dates and links.) Students who are accepted will be registered for SciEd 140 or RPTM 140, Outdoor School Field Experience for academic credit concurrent with ODS. Counselors attend two required training sessions prior to the start of Outdoor School. Course information and registration materials will be available at these trainings.

During their week of ODS, Penn State students must commit to being on-site 24-hours a day, typically from 1:30 p.m. on Monday through 3:00 p.m. on Friday, with free time on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. Counselors sleep in cabins and eat family-style meals with the school students. There is indoor hot-water plumbing.

Outdoor School has both a fall and a spring season. The spring season lasts typically six to seven weeks beginning in early April and ending in mid-May. The fall season is typically six weeks beginning, in late September and running through October. ODS is held at Camp Blue Diamond, in Petersburg, Pennsylvania (about 20 miles south of State College)**.

If you wish to apply for a future season, or if you have questions regarding Outdoor School or the application, please visit the FAQ section of the Outdoor School website or contact Ellen Will, Outdoor School Director, at 814-863-2000 or ellenwill@psu.edu.

*Please note that we give preference to new and first-time returning applicants in order to give more students the opportunity to participate in Outdoor School. If you’re a second- or third-time returning counselor, please apply anyway, and we will do our best to offer you a position. All counselors must provide verification of Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance, PA State Police Background Check, and FBI Fingerprint Check to comply with the newly revised PA State Child Protection laws before attending ODS. If you do not have current clearances, we will assist you with obtaining these as part of the training process.

**Car pools can be arranged to help students without transportation get to the counselor trainings and to Camp Blue Diamond during Outdoor School.

See why we believe in Outdoor School:


Kids on lake trail


New Counselor Application

Returning Counselor Application

Fall 2018 Important Dates:

Counselor application deadline:
September 7, 2018

Counselor Training I:
Thursday, September. 13, 6:00–9:00 p.m.,
112 Kern Building

Counselor Training II:
Wednesday, September 19, 5:30–9:00 p.m.,
Camp Blue Diamond

Outdoor School dates:

September 24–28
October 1–5
October 8–12
October 15–19
October 22–26
October 29–November 2
November 6–9 (Tues.–Fri.)

(All dates are Monday–Friday unless noted)

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