Outdoor education schools offer a style of learning that has been proven to have wonderful effects on kids’ development at all ages. These outdoor classrooms can take your child’s focus away from screens and turn their attention to the wonder of the natural world through activities that foster exploration, independence, experimentation, and fun!
If you’re raising your kids in a city like Los Angeles, there are plenty of amazing outdoor spaces inside and within a relatively short commute from the city. There are many state and national parks and recreational areas and everything in between close by.
Outdoor education options range from overnight field trips for school groups to year-round, day-to-day instruction at forest schools that takes the place of traditional schooling. Take a look at these great outdoor education schools.
1. Pali Institute
Address: 30778 CA-18, Running Springs, CA 92382
Type: Day & Residential
Pali Institute is one of the preeminent outdoor education schools in the country. Its huge 274-acre campus is located in the San Bernardino National Forest and is home to challenge courses, sports fields, archery ranges, and hiking trails. There are tons for your school group to explore!
The institute is certified and accredited by The Western Association of Schools and Colleges and The Association for Experiential Education. Put simply that means that they are held to strict standards to ensure the excellence of their programs.
Pali Institute offers customizable 2- to 5-day overnight programs depending on a class’s needs and goals. These are geared toward kids in grades 4-12 and focus on outdoor education, science, and leadership. Pali also offers day programs for grades 3-12 with similar learning.
Teachers choose from various programs both indoors and outdoors including in the wilderness near the Pali Campus. Their helpful staff and facilities can help you plan the perfect field trip for students and coordinate any logistics.
The institute prides itself on offering nutritious, kid-friendly meals each day that can cater to a variety of food preferences and allergies.
2. Ever Wild
Address: 11901 Santa Monica Blvd STE459, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Type: Forest School
Ever Wild is a unique program where children can develop a lifelong understanding of the outside world and themselves. Kids can gain real-world skills in an atmosphere that encourages exploration, experimentation, and collaboration.
One of their goals is to get young kids in the start of their education journey with their Preschool and Kindergarten Forest School. They’re open for kids 3-6 and take place up to 4 days a week. In their time at the school, kids will spend the entire day outside in the fresh air, learning about the natural world.
As your kids graduate from Kindergarten, they’ll have the option for additional longer week sessions as well as gender-specific days per month. Either can be the perfect supplement to homeschooling. Similar to their other offerings, children spend the entire day outside.
Whichever program is the right fit, they offer convenient dropoff and pickup in Penmar Park. And if none of these options are quite what you’re looking for, they also provide a summer camp for ages 3-12. Each week at camp covers a different topic.
3. Aventuras Forest School
Address: Fern Dell, Griffith Park Los Angeles, CA 90027
Type: Forest School
Aventuras Forest School is located in downtown Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. Children 3-6 will spend their entire days outdoors in a setting that functions more like a traditional preschool than not.
The school offers 5-day per week enrollment only, with no part-time options. This is to give students a chance to build true friendships amongst their peers, which can be tricky when kids aren’t all on the same full-time schedule.
The Aventuras Forest School focuses on Spanish language fluency. Spanish is a large part of their classes, so your kids can learn Spanish vocabulary and grammar in addition to their STEM-related pursuits. Each class is limited to 12 students with a 1:4 teacher-to-student ratio. The smaller class sizes ensure their instructors carefully watch over the children while their playing.
But that’s not all they’ll learn! Because they’ll be enrolled full-time, Aventuras focuses on educating their students in music, arts, mathematics, and more, all through the clever use of outdoor spaces and activities. It’s a great way for your kids to really connect with nature and realize how closely linked their lives are to the natural world around them from an early age.
4. Arroyo Nature School
Address: Arroyo Nature School Arroyo Seco Trail, Pasadena, CA 91105
The Arroyo Nature School is a preschool for children 2 to 5 years old. Their 5-day per week programs utilize a modern curriculum focused on learning through hands-on exploration, creativity, and problem-solving.
Arroyo Nature School uses a variety of activities to promote inclusivity, such as singing songs in different languages. They work to foster a sense of community amongst the youngsters and ensure that no one feels left out.
The daily curriculum and activities provide a much different experience than traditional classrooms. This leads to important developments in key areas for children like self-confidence and resilience.
It’s a great way for your preschool-aged children to begin to learn from peer-to-peer interactions and environmental stewardship.
5. Wolf School
Address: 220 Cloister Lane, Aptos CA, 95003
Type: Day & Residential
The Wolf School has multiple locations throughout California although more near the northern end. Their outdoor education programs are typically residential stays for K-12 students. It offers field trips that are affordable and accessible to schools with students from all backgrounds.
The Wolf School offers tailor-made options depending on your classroom curriculum. Past options have included everything from geology to Native American studies. Everything is focused on teaching kids about the natural environment with a secondary focus on group bonding that goes beyond standard team-building activities.
They want your kids to really understand the meaning of community and the idea of building healthy relationships. And they’ll have plenty of changes with singalongs, campfires, and unique group hikes. Classes range from teaching about different ecosystems and astronomy to the physical sciences.
If you’re looking for more from the Wolf School, they also offer summertime marine science summer camps targeting children ages 8-16. These range from traditional overnight camps to 5-day sailing adventures for older children. It’s an exciting opportunity for young adults to explore and test their independence!
For more options all around California, check out our California outdoor schools page.