1968 marked the beginning of outdoor and experiential education in the Aspen School District (ASD). Since its inception, the program has expanded greatly to offer beyond-classroom educational experiences in which students participate in a variety of challenges and outdoor activities–hiking, climbing, rafting, ropes courses and group initiatives in the wilderness. Over the years, the high school program has evolved to include a variety of national destinations for cultural, artistic, urban or community-based learning.   

Outdoor and experiential education across all grades within ASD involves carefully chosen activities that are supported by reflection and critical analysis–and are structured to require each participant to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results. These experiences offer significant growth opportunities for students that are often life changing.

Miles trekking through the wilderness on route to overnight solo in 8th grade
AHS Experimental Education courses this year

“It is rare for a public school to be able to provide a program like this. Outdoor education promotes the development of perseverance, empathy, compassion, and the ability to recognize and appreciate each other’s differences. It’s a learning experience that simply cannot be replicated in the classroom. Reaching the 50-year milestone is a true testament to the collective dedication and support of both the ASD staff and the Aspen community as a whole.”

Craig Rogers, former Aspen Middle School Principal and AEF Board Member

“My favorite part of avalanche trail was going on a hike through the woods. The whole thing was my favorite part. It was pretty rad!”

Judd Gurtman, 8th grade ODE

The Aspen School District’s Outdoor Ed program has been alive and well for over 50 years. Since the first trip embarked upon in 1968, our students have been hiking, skinning, using Aspen trees for sunscreen, camping and surviving a solo. The results: determination, tenacity and a love for our great outdoors. Outdoor Ed is at the heart and soul of public education in Aspen. Our goal is to endow Outdoor Ed so that all future generations have access to this life-changing experience and program.

Experiential Education

Experiential education is a style of teaching where educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities.

Outdoor Education Gallery