A Mountain Classroom Philosophy


A Mountain Classroom uses inspiring outdoor settings and experiential methods to engage students and their teachers in learning. We offer two basic curricular strands: Ecology and Earth Science and Leadership Development and Teambuilding. A hallmark of the A Mountain Classroom program is our ability to work with you to design an experience that complements your classroom lessons and/or other developmental goals for students and addresses state frameworks.

This process often begins as an initial conversation between the trip organizer and one of our program coordinators. In shaping that conversation, we have developed an educational philosophy that is directed by core beliefs. They are:

  • Developing environmental literacy is dependent on well-designed field activities that contribute to a well-balanced education.

  • Education can be active, engaging, and relevant and can stimulate the mind, body, and soul.

  • Experiences in nature support wellbeing.

  • Stewardship of the environment grows from direct, positive experiences in the outdoors complemented by an understanding of our physical and emotional connections to the natural world.

A Mountain Classroom offers a wide range of options from a single day experience to week long trips. However, we believe residential (overnight, multi-day) programs are exponentially impactful over day programs and allow students to be fully engaged in science learning and/or leadership development and community building. This residential experience challenges and unites students in spectacular ways and allows the use of thematic learning to develop fully throughout the day: from meal time to field time to bed time. Multi-day, field-based programs allow students to explore topics and find personal growth in a new learning environment. This environment permits students and teachers to be free of the stresses of daily school life and to view each other in a new light. In the shared words of Tom Wessels and Saul Weisberg:

“Our collective experience has shown us that the most transformative experiences come from extended trips, due to deeper immersion in nature and the interplay of group dynamics.”

The Journal of Natural History and Experience, Volume 7 (2013)

A Mountain Classroom Outcomes

Field-based programs allow students to explore topics and find personal growth in a new learning environment. This environment permits students and teachers to be free of the stresses of daily school life and to view each other in a constructive new light.

Outcomes of A Mountain Classroom programming are many and generally acquired simultaneously. Substantiated by academic research and from our own evaluation and program feedback, we know young participants:

  1. Develop an appreciation for the natural environment through exposure to spectacular wilderness areas.

  2. Improve environmental literacy through increased understanding of ecological concepts and balanced exposure to environmental issues.

  3. Strengthen intra- and inter-personal skills through group and individual challenges.

  4. Develop leadership skills using leadership theory and practice that can be transferred to other life endeavors.

Research also shows that students who attend A Mountain Classroom and other outdoor science schools showcase improved mandated test scores, influence parental knowledge and behavior regarding the environment, and display a significant increase in coping ability and stress management skills. Students with ADD/ADHD also exhibit fewer symptoms during and after time spent in green environments . Finally these AMCR students are healthier and happier than before their program began.

1 Dhanapal, S., Lim, C. C. Y., (2013). A comparative study of the impacts and students’ perceptions of indoor and outdoor learning in the science classroom. Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, 14(2), 1-23.

2 Damerell, P., Howe, C., Milner-Gulland, E.J., (2013). Child-orientated environmental education influences adult knowledge and household behaviour. Environmental Research Letters, 8(1), 1-15.

3 Journal of Psychology in Africa Volume 24, Issue 2, 2014 pages 193-196

4 Wells, N.M. & Evans, G. W. (May 2003). Nearby nature a buffer of life stress among rural children. Environment & Behavior, 35(3) 311- 330. Accessed Academic Search Premier March 27, 2009. (AN9607116).

5 Taylor AF & Kuo FE (2009). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Evidence from a national study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 12(5):402-409.

6 Duncan, M. J., Clarke, N. D., Birch, S. L., Tallis, J., Hankey, J., Bryant, E., Eyre, E. L., (2014). The Effect of Green Exercise on Blood Pressure, Heart Rate and Mood State in Primary School Children. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(4), 3678-3688.