For many of us, our lifelong passion for the outdoors began when we were young – through a family camping trip, exploring the woods behind our house, or the guidance of a teacher or mentor. It is our goal to facilitate these kinds of transformative outdoor experiences for young people from all walks of life. Using both direct outdoor programming and expanded partnership efforts, AMC aspires to provide 125,000 youth per year with meaningful outdoor experiences, ultimately building an active cadre of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards for the future.
AMC’s vibrant environmental educational program, A Mountain Classroom (AMCR) increases students’ understanding of the natural world and their relationship to it. Taught experientially, the program’s curricula have two main strands: Ecology and Earth Science and Leadership Development and Teambuilding that can be taught independently or together. Our curricula support both in-school and out-of-school developmental goals for students across three domains, intellectual, social and physical. This past year, AMCR provided over 8,300 outdoor education experiences. We recognize the vital importance of connecting students to the outdoors. Hence, our goal for 2020 is to serve 11,000 youth.
In reaching this goal and beyond, we envision an environmental education and leadership development program that serves AMC’s entire region and reflects the diversity of its residents. AMC facilities, schools, and community sites will continue to provide venues for both day and overnight programs. Schools and districts will build an ongoing relationship with AMCR to provide multiple outdoor learning experiences throughout students’ K-12 career that culminates in a transformational, multi-day educational experience at one of AMC’s spectacular locations. As one of AMC’s cornerstone programs, the expansion of AMCR’s classic overnight program at AMC’s facilities is an important component of program growth. In connecting students directly to AMC’s impressive natural settings, AMCR engages youths’ mind, body, and soul with the natural world while creating an affinity for AMC.
To further bolster our ability to impact youth, expansion of our work with educators and other youth service providers is integral to our vision. Educators from throughout AMC’s region will join AMC’s professional staff to increase their ability to incorporate outdoor and/or environmental education into their work. Combining theory and practice, our top-notch workshops will help educators improve their confidence and ability to manage and instruct students in an outdoor setting. AMCR professional development helps educators employ new and creative tools to teach environmental science and meet national education standards.
Participation in AMCR helps reduce the disturbing trend of youths’ lack of direct experience in and disaffection for the outdoors. Active outdoor experiences enrich our lives and promote health and wellness. As our nation confronts major environmental issues both now and in the future, we need citizens with an understanding of the complexity of environmental systems, a love for our region’s special natural places, and the self-confidence to lead. A Mountain Classroom makes a valuable contribution to these needs.
Serving young learners and their adult counterparts, A Mountain Classroom’s present and future is indeed very bright.
Maine Woods Community Youth and Environment and AMC Coos County Place-Based Education Projects
AMC’s A Mountain Classroom (AMCR) program provides the foundation for two successful, place-based environmental/outdoor education initiatives set in the rural communities near our operations in northern New Hampshire and in the Moosehead Lake Region in Maine.
These scenic regions, rich in woods products history, now have greater than average economic and educational challenges as compared with their state and national averages. Ongoing out-migration of youth is also an important issue. As a consequence, both regions now benefit from vibrant initiatives focused on young residents. It is our belief that a strong outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship culture, built around a community of active, young residents with a deep sense of place will greatly enhance both regions’ ability to attract and retain young adults and families. Youth passing through AMC’s programming will carry with them into adulthood unique learning experiences that change their perspectives about their region and the outdoors. By working successively with kids through the years, we expect to see substantive results towards stemming the tide of out migration and increasing regional appreciation.
AMC staff, in partnership with local educators and youth serving professionals, offer outdoor academic and recreational programs that increase local youth’s connection to their natural landscape and its rewarding outdoor opportunities while supporting youth development.
Program goals include:
Improving and supporting Pre K-12 students’ educational experience through hands-on environmental education in the outdoors. Work with educators to integrate lessons into curricula and address science and ELA standards.
Supporting positive youth development through life-affirming outdoor activities that also advance the objectives of our regional partners.
Enhancing leadership skills in local youth.
Offering professional development opportunities for incorporating the outdoors into education.
- Help local students develop a sense of place as they experience the nearby mountains, rivers, lakes, and forest of their communities and surrounding area.
Core beliefs that support these initiatives include:
Our understanding of the importance of natural experiences to the overall well-being of youth.
Our dedication to programming that incorporates three developmental domains (intellectual, physical, and social).
Our belief that many of the goals listed above can be accomplished simultaneously through engaging outdoor programming.
In Piscataquis County, the Maine Woods Community Youth and Environment Project serves over 1,500 students annually in day and overnight programs at sites in the local communities and at AMC facilities. In Coos County, the AMC Coos County Place-Based Education Project serves over 3,600 students annually in day and overnight programs at sites in the local communities and at AMC facilities.
A Mountain Classroom staff actively fundraises with individuals and foundations to support both program efforts. Contact us if you would like to learn more about supporting these efforts.
Families Healthy Together, Berlin and Gorham, NH
Since the summer of 2014, AMC has been working with families in the towns of Berlin and Gorham, NH to provide free outdoor programming. For many families living in these Coos County communities, recreating in the White Mountains is a daunting or unrealistic option, despite their close proximity to this spectacular outdoor region. Through the Families Healthy Together (FHT) project, A Mountain Classroom staff seeks to introduce families to accessible, local hiking trails as well as other outdoor sports such as canoeing and snowshoeing. These fun, guided, and educational experiences increase awareness of local recreation possibilities and foster confidence to participate in them. These same programs provide affordable wellness opportunities to a community in need. By spending time in the outdoors together, families lessen their time in front of screens, enjoy the mental health benefits of time spent in nature, increase their level of physical activity, and have time to build and strengthen familial relationships, all of which contribute to improved personal health.
This project complements our other work in Coos County, NH and adds to AMC’s efforts to foster a healthy outdoor culture that appreciates the wonderful outdoor assets in the area. Donations make this effort possible.
Since its inception in 1876, AMC has been introducing young people to the fun, challenge, and inspiration of outdoor experiences. The name A Mountain Classroom can be found on program literature harkening back nearly five decades. As a program, A Mountain Classroom has a long and strong heritage.
In 1992, AMC hired the first staff member dedicated solely to the program launching a specific effort to expand our school-focused educational programming using new curricula and marketing materials. Now with six full-time administrative staff and 16-18 field teaching staff, the program operates in 5 states, spans the seasons, and offers two basic types of educational experiences: Ecology and Earth Science and Leadership Development and Teambuilding.
Socio-economically diverse youth from rural, suburban, and urban communities in all New England States, New Jersey, and New York join us for day and overnight programs. Both external funders and AMC’s endowment help keep program fees affordable for all, and ensure access to groups that need extra help to attend.
Over 8,200 youth per year benefit from A Mountain Classroom’s integrated learning experience that merges environmental education, personal development, and team building seamlessly in a hiking-based program that challenges students and inspires an appreciation for the natural world. Our program, taught experientially in the beauty of mountainous environments, creates powerful memories of camaraderie and fun.
Professional development in environmental education or outdoor skills and leadership is also available for educators who want to add impactful, outdoor learning to their work.
2016 Program Participation
Total Youth Served
AMCR General 3,552
Coos County 1,710
Piscataquis County 1,119
Total Youth Served 6,381
Total Youth Experiences 9,472
Youth field days 15,564
Adult Educators 39