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Outdoor Adventurer, Explorer

Learning to master the environment requires cooperation,

physical ability, discipline, and knowledge. The programs

included in this section teach the skills essential to survival.

These courses test kids to the limit, and children are expected

to push themselves and perform.

NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership Skills), one of the

country’s most respected programs, is located at the site where

NASA trains its astronauts. Ocean Classroom is a program

that teaches kids how to live on the ocean and operate a boat,

at the same time as students complete the equivalent of a

semester in high school.

In outdoor programs, kids are taught to work as a group

and rely on one another. At the same time they learn respect,

camaraderie, friendship, and an appreciation for the environment.

Such programs help children gain maturity, but it takes

a certain type of child to do well.


Ecology, Archeology, Zoology,World Health Programs

John Walker, Principal

3 Clock Tower Place, Suite 100

Maynard, MA 01754

(800) 776-0188 ext. 218 or (978) 450-1268

QUICK TAKE: With 3,500 members volunteering their time and

skills to work with 120 research scientists each year on field

projects in more than 50 countries, Earthwatch Institute is an

intense educational program that seeks to promote an understanding

of the actions necessary to sustain the natural environment.

Conversation, research, and education about the

world we live in and the effect of the environment on our

daily lives is researched and explored.

AGE REQUIREMENT: Volunteers must be at least 16 years old

for most programs; a few expeditions require volunteers to

be at least 18 or 21 years old. Participation by minors (ages 16

and 17) is usually limited to two per team to help manage

group dynamics on research expeditions.

FEES: $700 to $4,000 per person, excluding travel to and from

the rendezvous. The price of each project covers food, accommodations,

on-site travel, and all costs of field research

(field permits, equipment, etc.). There are student grants and

fellowships are available for advanced students who are


BACKGROUND: The Earthwatch Institute is an international

not-for-profit organization founded in Boston, with offices

in Oxford, England; Melbourne, Australia; and Tokyo, Japan.

There are 50,000 members and supporters throughout Europe,

Africa, Asia, and Australia.

DESCRIPTION: The Earthwatch Institute has a variety of field

research and educational opportunities in the United States

and abroad. These expeditions allow your teenager to work

hands-on with a scientist in the field and gain valuable firsthand

knowledge about techniques in data collection, awareness

of environmental issues, exploration of new cultures and

environments, and many personal growth topics. According

to its Web site, Earthwatch expeditions are ongoing research

projects confronting critical, current issues, run by qualified

and respected members of the scientific community. Earthwatch

expeditions are short-term volunteer opportunities

directly assisting scientists in their field research. Most projects

last 10 to 14 days, but one-week, three-week, and weekend

opportunities are also available. The researchers come

from all over the globe. The Web page includes quotations

from past students that give a good idea of the quality and intensity

of the Earthwatch experience: http://www.earthwatch


OUR TAKE: With forays into the science of discovery and objective

knowledge about the environment, this program and

experience has the potential to be life changing.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: This is a terrific way to enhance the

personal growth process by increasing self-confidence, environmental

awareness, a sense of community, and a sense of

self. The students should be mature, team players, and willing

to immerse themselves in the program. A strong experience

for the right kid.



Environmental camp

Brooks McKinney, Director

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Geneva, NY 14456

(315) 781-3819

QUICK TAKE: A camp for kids who love research and are eager

to understand more about the environment. College professors

conduct the program, and the students receive all the tools

necessary to perform research in the Seneca Lake area. Col-

lege credit is offered to those who successfully complete the



DATE: Two weeks in July

FEES: Application fee, $25; boarding program, $1,700. Financial

aid is available.


Smith Colleges

BACKGROUND: The program was founded in 1993 by a group

of professors focused on environmental issues.

DESCRIPTION: Students work in the field, on the lake, or in

laboratories conducting research on the area. An oceanographic

vessel (the HWS Explorer) is used to explore Seneca

Lake and nearby nature preserves. Experiment stations also

add to the experience. Seminars are taught on subjects that

range from environmental policy and politics to nature photography

and literature related to the environment. All classes

are taught by college professors. The program also offers

camping trips to the Adirondack Mountains for additional research


OUR TAKE ON THE PROGRAM: A really special experience for

those with an interest in the environment. The curriculum is

difficult, but rewarding.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: This camp, which really focuses on

all aspects of the environment, is a great opportunity for any

high school student who has an interest in the natural environment.

Transportation to the campus can be arranged from

airports in Rochester, Syracuse, and Ithaca, New York ($50

each way).



Outdoor Adventure through Leadership Program

Bruce Palmer, Director of Admissions

284 Lincoln Street

Lander, WY 82520-2848

(800) 710-NOLS

QUICK TAKE: This program is for the child who is serious

about the outdoors. To be accepted, children must be in good

physical shape. NOLS is dedicated to risk management, but

there is risk involved. These adventures require that children

test their limits and raise their personal bar of accomplishment.

AGE REQUIREMENT: 14 and older

FEES: Call for information.

BACKGROUND: The National Outdoor Leadership School

(NOLS), a not-for-profit educational program, was established

in 1965, one year after the “Wilderness Act” became law. Paul

Petzolt, a legendary mountaineer, world famous climber, and

member of the Army’s 10th mountain division, started NOLS

to train leaders to master the outdoors and to learn about,

protect, and care for the wilderness. He wanted to provide

people with the tools to travel through wild places and not

only survive, but thrive. Today, NASA trains astronauts here.

DESCRIPTION: Classes are organized by age (14 and 15, 16, 17,

18–24), held in the summer, and last either 14 or 28 days.

On- and off-trail hiking, introduction to rock climbing, peak

ascents, and negotiating boulder fields with a 50-pound backpack

along a 75-mile hiking route are all part of the Wyoming

Adventure for 14 and 15 year olds, which takes a group of

approximately eight children and two instructors to elevations

of 7,000 to 13,000 feet. (The number of students and

instructors varies depending on the program.) Kids will learn

outdoor living skills, how to get along with other members of

their group, and how to be a leader even when they are in the

back of the pack.

OUR TAKE: This program can positively impact a child’s life in

many quantifiable and nonquantifiable ways. Kids return

home sure of their abilities and with a strong sense of self,

but it is not appropriate for every child. Your child must be

physically and emotionally prepared for the program and

must be motivated. Students come from all backgrounds and

with different levels of experience. The desire to learn and participate

is the most important factor for success on a NOLS


OUR RECOMMENDATION: This is an amazing course—it builds

character, is life changing, and offers incredible adventure—

and NOLS fastidiously practices risk management, but there

are risks. Parents, do your homework, do your research, and

know your child. This is a serious decision and must be a joint

one between parent and child.


Ocean camp

Bert Rogers, Executive Director

Ocean Classroom Foundation

PO Box 446

Cornwall, NY 12518

(800) 724-7245

QUICK TAKE: This award-winning program takes place on water

and is so full of information that it is the equivalent of a high

school semester. Young adults take the reins in learning how

to operate a boat, while keeping up with the studies they

would be taking at their high schools. It’s character building,

challenging, demanding, and exciting. The result is an experience

that enables children to realize their abilities and to

develop a sense of self-confidence that will stay with them

throughout life. What makes this program even more exciting

are the “awesome” locations one can choose to explore. This

is an amazing experience for any student with real dreams of

maritime pursuits or a student with a sense of adventure who

enjoys a significant challenge.


Ocean Classroom Foundation. Accredited by: Proctor Academy

of Andover, NH.

AGE REQUIREMENT: 15–18 (there are other programs for 13–16

year olds and college undergraduates)

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Although the main contact is in

New York, the locations range from the Bahamas, Cuba, and

the Dominican Republic to Haiti, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

DATES: 3 sessions, each lasting between 63 and 120 days, are

offered in every month but December.

FEES: The cost is a hefty, $6,950–$12,750. Financial aid is


BACKGROUND: This not-for-profit foundation began the program

in 1994 to teach students about the sea and navigation.

It provides a challenging experience and a vigorous academic

program in maritime studies.

DESCRIPTION: The Ocean Classroom is the equivalent of a high

school semester. It offers the same subjects, but they are

uniquely designed to revolve around the sea. For example,

marine science, marine history, marine applied mathematics,

and so on. Focus is on all aspects of the sea, including the

exploration of ocean ecosystems in some of the most beautiful

places on earth. The really remarkable aspect of this camp

is that students get the chance to operate the boats, while

achieving a level of responsibility and maturity well beyond

their years. The selection process is rigid; an interview is required.

There is an adjustment involved; the optimal candidate

must be able to manage a day filled with the challenges of

being at sea at the same time as he or she keeps up academically.

The program is equally divided between male/female

participation and Bert Rogers, the executive director, says

both do equally well in this program.

OUR TAKE: This is an amazing, unparalleled course of study

that is packed with activity and the challenge/responsibility

of operating a boat. When asked about the social side of the

program and if the kids get along, we were told that the demands

of the program and the ocean were a great leveler and

led to camaraderie. The kids learn to operate as a group and

rely on each other, which helps build respect and friendship.

The Ocean Classroom takes place during the school year, and

students receive high school credit (some programs give college

credit). Not only are the students involved in the work,

they are also learning the process while getting hands-on experience.

The exotic locations allow students to closely observe

habitats that can’t be seen in the United States. This is

an excellent program for kids interested in the sea, but our

feeling is that it is a life-changing program for any student

who can meet this kind of challenge.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: This is one that is awe inspiring, and

we recommend it wholeheartedly for the kid who has the energy,

drive, interest, commitment, and responsibility to meet

this challenge. The only drawback is: how does a child return

to school after participating in it? Two to three months at sea

can either be a very short time or very long time depending

on the child. This is why the Ocean Classroom’s selection

process is so discerning. For the kids who participate, these

months will pass quickly but always be remembered.