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Outdoor Education

Headwaters has a strong commitment to conservation education.

We provide students with an opportunity to be outdoors, and help them appreciate, understand and conserve our country's natural resources and special places. Through conservation education, our academic goal is to help students develop the critical thinking skills they need to understand the complexities of ecological issues, make informed decisions, and become proactive and responsible stewards of our public lands and resources. Our goal is to connect our students to the land through hands-on, interactive and relevant experiences while providing tools and resources that allow for additional educational opportunities.

Each grade has the opportunity to connect with their peers and build effective teams through experiential learning, a process that engages students in a direct experience and focused reflection to maximize learning. We will practice skills in real time and actively reflect on them. 

Using a basic framework adapted from the National Outdoor Leadership School, we use the following educational tools to help maximize learning:

Briefing an activity before we begin: designing a plan of action or integrating learning from previous experiences

Debriefing an activity after it’s completed: reflecting on what happened to maximize learning

Community building: a crucial element of leadership is actively building healthy, inclusive, and supportive learning teams where individuals strive to understand each other and invest in each other's growth

Scenarios: simulations that allow us to practice skills in ways that reflect real-life variables

Expedition skills (hiking, backpacking, camping, etc.): our backcountry activities both teach us how to travel in the wilderness and provide the challenges that support other learning objectives (foundation, community, leadership, etc.)

Direct instruction: whether the classroom is in a building or the wilderness, our passionate educators deliver effective, focused content based on specific learning objectives

Challenge: we avoid contrived challenge but seek opportunities for genuine challenge within our programs to enhance experiences and maximize learning

Fun: fostering a fun environment remains a foundational tool for bringing people together and supporting learning


Outdoor Education Programming

  • Fall programming - grade-level excursions. 

    • Upper grades - backpacking, outdoor skills, and team-building with local non-profits, including Montana Wilderness School and Crosscut. 

    • Lower grades - Homestake. 

    • Skills & activities include: self-care; expedition behavior; group living; how to pack; how to sleep warm; Leave No Trace; hiking as a group; cowboy camping, and other activities as they arise.

  • Winter programming includes: cross country skiing; downhill skiing and/ or snowboarding; snow-shoeing; snow science and basic snowpack and avalanche education. 

  • Spring programming includes: field study and (weather-dependent) spring excursions, including hiking, day trips, and a possible overnight.

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