Outdoor Experiential Learning (OEL) Program

“The Ridgway School District’s outdoor experiential education program fosters the tools of stewardship, teamwork, and leadership necessary to contribute as local and global citizens in a changing world.”

Scenic background of Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area

In the spirit of our town’s motto, Ridgway students “Think Outside” through an articulated PreK-12, developmentally appropriate outdoor learning program that is integrated with learning within the core curriculum. Together students build an inclusive, compassionate, resilient and resourceful culture of learning.

Day Trips

Day trips are invaluable opportunities to enrich classroom learning by providing practical, hands-on experiences. Here's how we maximize the educational value of these outings:

  • Teacher-Led: Teachers have the autonomy to seamlessly integrate the educational component of the day trip into their lesson plans. This ensures that students can directly apply classroom learning in real-world settings, fostering deeper understanding and retention.

  • Collaboration with Outside Educators or Agencies: Teachers collaborate with outside educators or agencies to enhance the educational experience. Working with experts in specific fields offers students unique insights and perspectives, enriching their learning journey.

  • Visits to Sites: Teachers may choose day trips to sites offering comprehensive educational programming. These destinations often provide structured tours, workshops, or presentations aligned with our academic goals, enhancing students' knowledge and skills.

By leveraging day trips as extensions of academic content, we provide our students with dynamic learning experiences that spark curiosity and deepen their understanding of the changing world around them.

Overnight Trips

Overnight trips occur for grades 4th-12th. These annual overnight trips are designed with key objectives in mind:

  • Promoting Positive Relationships and Inclusivity: The overnight trips aim to cultivate a sense of belonging and camaraderie among students, allowing them to bond and build lasting friendships within their class.

  • Developing Recreational Skills: Through engaging activities and experiences, students have the opportunity to further develop their recreational skills, promoting physical activity and overall well-being.

  • Providing Leadership Opportunities: The trips offer various leadership opportunities for students, allowing them to take on responsibilities and develop essential leadership qualities in a supportive environment.

  • Encouraging Reflection and Independence: Students are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and accomplishments during and after the trip, nurturing personal growth and independence as they navigate new challenges and experiences.

We believe that these overnight trips are valuable opportunities for our students to learn, grow, and create lasting memories.


Our Outdoor Experiential Learning (OEL) program is funded through various sources, ensuring accessibility for all students. Initially, we request contributions from families for each trip, aiming for approximately one-third of the total cost per student, although this may vary depending on individual needs and trip expenses.

The Mount Sneffels Education Fund (MSEF) and the George Gardner Scholarship Fund (GGSF) play pivotal roles as financial supporters of our Outdoor Experiential Learning program. MSEF offers assistance through an application process accessible on its website, and GGSF sponsors activities such as the Learn to Ski/Winter Adventure days and provides individual scholarships for events like the Senior Rafting Trip and various student endeavors, including summer trips. Teachers organizing these trips can apply for scholarships through GGSF and will inform parents of any awards received.

Additional scholarships are offered by the Ridgway School District, and migrant services are accessible to assist English Language Learner (ELL) students and their families. We are committed to ensuring that financial or language limitations do not impede student involvement. Our goal is to promote inclusivity and offer equitable opportunities for all students to participate in these valuable experiences.

We extend an invitation to teachers, students, and parents to participate as volunteers in the yearly MSEF Marathon held every August. By volunteering in the MSEF Marathon, it contributes directly to the continued growth and success of our OLE program. This support helps create an inclusive environment where every student can benefit from learning experiences beyond the classroom.

Become a Volunteer

Volunteers play a crucial role in providing invaluable support to our teachers and students, both within the classroom and during day or overnight trips. This dedication and assistance contributes significantly to enhancing the overall educational experience for our students.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer and would like to learn more about how to get involved, please visit our website at https://www.ridgway.k12.co.us/page/volunteers. There, you will find detailed information on volunteer opportunities, requirements, and how to sign up. Your involvement as a volunteer is greatly appreciated and truly makes a meaningful difference for our students and teachers.

Fun Fact: In 2023, over 8 field trips, 23 people contributed 138 hours of volunteer time to support 4th graders learning
about Colorado History and Bird Banding. That is a lot of positive energy!