Youth Outside | The Meaning of Mountain Workshops

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we think about the life-changing impacts that programs like our Mountain Workshops can have on children as they begin to explore the natural world.
Andy Bassett Andy Bassett
Youth Education Manager
May 02, 2020

Growing up, I counted down the days to when the Activity Bus would roll into our parking lot with my class on its roster. The air static with excitement, we would board the bus in single file, sitting side-by-side on cracked bench seats with backpacks at our feet. Short of a snow day, we were about to embark on one of the single greatest grade school events: a field trip.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that my teachers had painstakingly spent the days and weeks leading up to the big day teaching us about where we were going or what we were doing. Whether we were headed to the state capitol, a national park, or a day on a high ropes course, we were engaging in the clever art of experiential learning. I was thrilled to spend the day with my friends, teachers, and those special guests – park rangers, zoo keepers, and volunteer parents – who helped show us a brand-new way of seeing the world.

These days, I occupy my time with students on the destination side of the Activity Bus. Over the past nine years, The Mountaineers has established lasting relationships with schools and teachers to provide experiences that range from single-day activities to yearlong programs, allowing students to dip their toes into different outdoor activities and skills. Annually, we host over 150 unique outdoor-based activities with over 40 youth-serving partners for school-aged children through our donor-funded Mountain Workshop Outreach Programs.

From across the Puget Sound region, students are transported to our program centers, Kitsap Forest Theater, and local trailheads to join us on an adventure. Equipped with snowshoes, hats, boots, or whatever else they might need from our Gear Library, we see these kids throw themselves into new experiences and new ways of seeing the outdoors. And it’s not just big field trips that get kids outside – at 4pm every Monday at our Seattle Program Center, students from the local YMCA expand their bodies and minds as they learn to climb and support one another on and off the wall.

As I experienced as a child, these single-day adventures can crack a new world wide open. They allow us to see firsthand the history and beauty of the land around us, how our ecosystems function, and how animals look and act in the wild. Those early experiences created a foundation that I later looked toward as the outdoors became a larger and more meaningful part of my life, and I’ve never forgotten those teachers and facilitators that helped make those trips happen. Their creativity, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm brought new places to life and gave us experiences that lasted a lifetime. These days, it feels good to come full circle and give these kids the joy of outdoor exploration. If you’re looking for a way to give back, it may be a source of joy for you too. Read on to see the impacts our Mountain Workshop Outreach Programs have had, and how you can get involved.

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“Having my students participate in The Mountaineers program has had multiple positive impacts. Our classroom has become much more positive in our interactions with each other because of the bonding that the students do during our Mountaineers field trips. On a typical Mountaineers field trip my students encourage each other. There are no put-downs. Each person’s achievements are everyone’s achievement. The Mountaineers field trips give my students opportunities to interact with one another outside of the classroom and get to know each other in a different way.”
-Robin G., Teacher

Want to get involved?

We’re always looking for new volunteers to work with our
Mountain Workshop Outreach Programs. Here are a few
easy steps to get started:

  • Step 1: Visit mountaineers.org/youth/volunteer-with-youth
    to see available programs, upcoming events, and more.
    All youth volunteers are thoroughly vetted and subject to
    background checks.
  • Step 2: Take our Qualified Youth Leader Training online at
    the link above. This simple 3-step process gets you up-todate
    with all of our programs and improves safety.
  • Step 3: Contact the Outreach Program Manager in your area:

Main image of students practicing wilderness first aid at Woodmoor Elementary School.


This article originally appeared in our Spring 2020 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.


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