Colorado has a plethora of outdoor education opportunities with natural landscapes like the Rocky Mountains and fun outdoor activities available for children. Plenty of outdoor forest schools operate in the state and teach students about the great outdoors with professional curriculums. With experienced instructors, children can learn outdoor skills on things like camping, hiking, the environment, and more in these unique educational classrooms.
To help you choose the right outdoor program, we’ve uncovered some fantastic options no matter who you are. Here are some of the best outdoor schools in Colorado if you’re looking for a place for your students or kids.
1. Colorado Rocky Mountain School
Address: 500 Holden Way, Carbondale, CO 81623
Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s top-tier outdoor school program in Carbon, CO, helps students discover their potential while developing skills to improve different areas of their lives.
Like most outdoor education schools, CRMS students have an annual itinerary that includes year-round trips to the wilderness, including during the school year. Your child can join peers in exploring trails, mountains, rivers, and other natural attractions around Colorado.
Their programs include Orientation, a ten-day trip for all students that takes them through the surrounding high country. Students travel on- and off-trail, visiting nearby Snowmass, Hunter-Fryingpan, and Maroon Bells regions. Outdoor Orientation helps instill a sense of service, teamwork, and adventure in kids and provides a fantastic start to your child’s journey at CRMS.
CRMS also offers Spring Trip, an expedition to explore the rivers, canyons, creeks, mesas of the American Southwest. Building on previous field trips, Spring Trip exposes students to newer challenges, allowing them to hone their strengths. Activities in the itinerary include canoeing at Green River, mountain biking at Kokopelli Trail, backpacking at Death Hollow, and rock climbing at Indian Creek.
There’s also a Fall Trip designed to build camaraderie among students and promote the development of new outdoor skills. Your child can enjoy hiking throughout the Alfred Braun Hut system, mountain biking at White Rim Trail, and kayaking at Gates of Lodore.
The benefit of CRMS’ intensive outdoor exploration is visible in the performance of students. Thanks to challenges faced on the trail, students develop resilience, teamwork, and bravery. These skills can carry over into other areas of life and assure a bright future ahead for any student.
2. Catamount Institute
Address: 740 W Caramillo St, Colorado Springs, CO 80907
Type: Day & Residential
The Catamount Institute Outdoor School program is a combined effort involving the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education and several others. COS in Colorado Springs inspires a love for nature in children by having them embark on guided tours to see Colorado’s natural attractions.
Research has proved students in outdoor schools do statistically better on standardized tests (mathematics, literacy, social studies, and science). With that in mind, enrolling your child in the COS program is a good way to improve their academic performance.
Even though it leans heavily into a nature-based education, Catamount Outdoor School still has elements of a regular school. Students are taught by expert teachers in the humanities, social sciences, STEM, and the arts.
An education at COS can help your child discover their sense of community and empower them to create positive change. Besides, COS students display greater zeal to learn since outdoor education takes place in an interactive and engaging setting.
3. WorldMind Nature Immersion School
Address: 1515 Race St, Denver, CO 80206
WorldMind Nature Immersion School is one of Colorado’s finest outdoor-based schools—for good reason. The curriculum emphasizes learning outdoors as much as learning in the classroom.
Here, your child can learn about core subjects, such as literacy and STEM. They build life skills through field trips, nature walks, and other forms of outdoor exploration.
WorldMind Nature School in Denver, CO, has learning programs for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. The Early Learning Inclusive School (ELIS) is designed for toddlers and introduces them to learning through age-appropriate exercises.
Older children in Grade 1 through 8 go to the WorldMind Preparatory School. Here, they take STEM classes, including lessons on robotics and coding. Creative-minded students can benefit from studies in Art and Design, and the curriculum also provides literacy education, physical activities, including mindfulness and yoga sessions, sports, and other forms of recreation.
Before enrolling your child, consider signing up for WorldMind’s annual summer camp. The summer camp can help determine if it’s the right fit for your kid—and it’s an excellent opportunity for your young one to explore the outdoors all summer long.
Given the generalized teaching methods of public schools, it’s common for neurodiverse and extremely gifted students to feel left out. They provide learning programs tailored to the needs of such children. It even partners with the Happiness Therapy Center on creating curriculum and instructional methods that work for each child’s specific learning style.
4. Watershed School
Address: 1661 Alpine Ave., Boulder, CO 80304
Newly founded in 2019, Watershed School in Boulder, Colorado, is an independent educational institution intent on reinventing the educational experience for youths. It has an active outdoors exploration program designed to teach students healthy risk-taking, grit, teamwork, and courage.
Every year, senior students at Watershed go on a nine-day trip across the backcountry. Known as “Wilderness,” this trip is a long-running tradition for new high school students and helps them connect with the rest of their peers. They receive opportunities for personal reflection and contribute to the group by taking up leadership positions.
Junior students have a similar annual trip called “Orientation,” which lasts for four days. This camping expedition is crucial for giving them a taste of what life is like at Watershed. Students learn to collaborate with peers to achieve objectives and develop confidence and optimism during their outdoor adventures.
Beyond these yearly trips, youth get outdoor education opportunities throughout the year. Past trips have seen students visit natural landmarks, such as the Moab Desert, Colorado River, and Rocky Mountain West.
The school’s authorities take student safety seriously, so your child’s in good hands. Your child gets adequate safety training to rescue risks, and instructors undergo annual training and are taught basic emergency response and care.
5. Haven Forest School
Type: Day & Residential
Haven Forest School is a tuition-free nature education program for kids between Pre-K and Grade 6. Haven Forest School is a good fit for little ones from homeschool families, as it cultivates a sense of wonder and connection with nature. It’s located in Colorado Springs, CO.
HFS offers lessons in regular subjects like science, literature, poetry, art, handwork, building, cooking, and music. Nature education is handled by expert forest school instructors and teaches kids to love and care for their surroundings through specific nature activities.
With its nature-led approach to education, this outdoor school is a good place for your child to immerse in the natural world and receive tailored schooling from supportive instructors.