On the sixth floor of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s headquarters in Boston is a treasure trove of gear. But it’s not for most AMC members. Nor is it even for AMC staff. It’s for teachers and youth leaders.
Since 1968 Educators Outdoors (EO) has been the Appalachian Mountain Club’s outdoor education, professional development, and social justice program. What started as a training session for educators in Roxbury, Massachusetts has grown into a support model for over 400 educators per year, engaging thousands of young people with outdoor experiences. The program primarily serves communities of color and lower-income communities around New York City and the greater Boston area, groups that remain underrepresented in outdoor recreation.
Grandy Organics is proud to partner with AMC to sponsor these incredible outdoor leadership programs for youth. We wholeheartedly believe that everyone should be able to access the outdoors and spend time enjoying what this beautiful planet has to offer. The more people we get outside, the more people appreciate the planet and ultimately work to protect it. We all win.
Training the Trainer
At the heart of Educators Outdoors’s work is a unique “train the trainer” approach.
AMC believes that youth outdoor experiences are most effective when led by people who know their participants the best: teachers and youth agency staff. AMC gives these youth development professionals the experience and resources they need to confidently lead trips.
“We’re not going into the community and saying ‘we’re gonna take your kids out.’ Rather, we’re going into the community and looking for folks who are interested in getting [young people closer to nature] with the support of the AMC,” says Sebastien Venuat, Director of Educators Outdoors.
It all begins with multi-day Outdoor Leadership Trainings, which take place throughout the year. These experiential trainings focus on the essentials: technical skills in camping and hiking, risk management, and outdoor leadership. But they remain loose. Every idea about how to get young people outdoors is on the table.
“During the workshop, there is a lot of time where we just brainstorm. What will it look like for you and your young people [to get outdoors]? Does it include a hike? Or is it just a walk? Does it include actually setting up a campsite with a tent?” says Venuat.
Thinking outside the box about what an outdoor experience can mean is especially important given the limited transportation to “wild” spaces that many leaders and youth face. A June 2023 Camping Outdoor Leadership Training, for example, included multiple participants with backgrounds in gardening and composting. This led to a larger discussion about gardening as a potential outdoor adventure.
While workshops may change to suit the needs of educators, the goal is always to empower them to lead confidently and help their young people form a deep and lasting relationship with the outdoors.
Providing for the Community
AMC’s support for educators doesn’t end with a training. The barriers faced by many youth leaders and their communities go beyond outdoor education and include transportation, time, and expensive gear. To help address these issues, AMC offers a full continuum of services once EO-trained educators are ready to take their kids on trips. This includes:
- Free use of outdoor equipment and gear from eight AMC gear lending libraries;
- Advanced skills workshops on topics including canoeing, winter hiking, backpacking, biking, and more;
- Trip-planning assistance;
- Mini-grants, training scholarships, and subsidized stays at AMC facilities;
- Continued access to the EO support network.
At AMC’s Boston headquarters, AMC Trip Support Coordinator Zoe Hecht sorts through sleeping bags and other camping gear, preparing for a school group. EO-trained educators request the gear they need for a trip two to three weeks in advance. Hecht and other AMC staff members handle logistics from there.
The gear lending library includes more than just basic camping and backpacking gear. There are warm coats and hiking boots. Snowshoes and cross-country skis. Cookware of all kinds. One corner even boasts a small collection of sleds. This array of gear gives educators options for what kinds of programming they can offer. It’s another example of EO’s trust in its trained educators to know what their young people need.
“They’re all amazing leaders within their communities. They know their kids, they know their youth development goals,” says Venuat.
The Appalachian Mountain Club believes the outdoors should be accessible to everyone, regardless of race and income. When young people get the chance to be outdoors, it opens their horizons. Educators Outdoors is a manifestation of this belief. The program not only helps youth have fun outside, it elevates underrepresented voices in the next generation of outdoor recreation. It’s an investment that matters, and we at Grandy are happy to help.