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. For more than 50 years, Outdoor School has provided exceptional environmental education programs to students through hands-on lessons and guided exploration of the natural world, with a curriculum that supports the Pennsylvania education standards for Environment & Ecology.

Penn State Students

Apply to be a counselor at Shaver’s Creek Outdoor School

Outdoor School (ODS) has both a fall and a spring season. Spring is 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. A week of ODS usually runs from Monday through Friday, and is held at Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pennsylvania (about 20 miles south of State College).

Purpose, Mission, and Theme of Outdoor School

The purpose of Outdoor School is to provide children with environmental experiences that nurture the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to improve their quality of life. By offering activities that promote a healthy self-image, provide clear understandings of the earth’s natural systems, and foster an emotional bond to the natural world, Outdoor School strives to guide children toward healthy and harmonious relationships with other people and the earth.

The mission of Outdoor School is to provide an exemplary residential, environmental education leadership experience for Penn State students, students from other colleges, and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center interns. This experience will allow student leaders to put into practice theories, methodologies, and techniques learned in the classroom. Outdoor School will also provide student leaders and participating Pennsylvania school children quality outdoor experiences that nurture the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to actively improve their quality of life.

The theme of Outdoor School, interrelationships, draws its inspiration from John Muir’s words. Understanding that all things on the planet are somehow connected, like a spider’s web, helps underscore how our actions affect Earth’s health and systems. Through natural history activities, resource exploration, and lessons on environmental concepts and cultural history, we explore the interrelationships of our natural world and our relationships within it.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

—John Muir

Goals of Outdoor School

  • To promote understanding of the Earth’s natural systems
  • To provide experiences which allow a person to understand the relationships between human lifestyle choices and their affect upon the Earth’s natural systems leading to positive changes in values and behavior
  • To provide an atmosphere that allows a person’s self-image and sense of personal confidence to grow
  • To provide group experiences that foster self-awareness, group skills, and an increased joy in being with others
  • To create an awareness in teachers, counselors, and staff of the outdoor environment as a resource for accomplishing educational goals

Why We Believe in Outdoor School