About Outdoor Environmental Education Programs

Grade 6 Residential Program

The Grade 6 MCPS Outdoor Environmental Education Program, known as “Outdoor Ed,” provides students with a three-day residential experience focused on the driving question, “How do our actions and choices impact the health of the watershed?” Using relevant, engaging, and interdisciplinary lessons, students explore the local ecosystem and their role in it.  The natural world is both classroom and laboratory for teaching and learning at Outdoor Ed, and literacy and mathematics are authentically integrated. The core lessons of this Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience include the following:

  • field experiences where scientific practices are used to investigate the environment, and where components of the MCPS Grade 6 curriculum are learned in a real-world setting. Environmental science lessons focus on the local watershed including  water-quality analysis of a local stream, use of a simulation to study population dynamics, and investigation of the impact of humans on the environment.
  • engaging lessons created to foster inquiry, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving.
  • structured and unstructured opportunities for building positive interpersonal relationships as students learn and practice relationship-building skills with their peers and teachers. Making a new friend is reported by more than 90 percent of students at the conclusion of Outdoor Ed!
  • motivation and opportunity for students to be active stewards of the environment as they investigate how their choices impact the environment and choose a daily action to improve it. The environmental learning and actions form the environmental Student Service Learning experience, which is an integral part of the Grade 6 science curriculum.

At Outdoor Ed, students live in dormitory-style housing at one of three sites, work collaboratively to take care of the dorms, and serve each other at meals. Teachers from each middle school accompany their students and teach several of the lessons at  Outdoor Ed along with the Outdoor Ed coordinators. A fee is charged for the residential setting of the program, set by the Board of Education; alternative payment options and waivers are available. Speaking volumes about Outdoor Ed, MCPS high schools seniors commonly cite this unique experience among their three most remembered and cherished learning events in their 12 years of education.

*Day only options are available to accommodate individual needs at the Grade 6 program. 

Day Programs  

Day Program1Yearly, through our Day Programs, over 10,000 K-5 MCPS students participate in outdoor environmental investigations and explorations at either the  Lathrop E. Smith Environmental Center or at the  Kingsley Environmental Center. Each program is directly linked to the school curriculum at each grade level with a focus on STEM relationships. Schools may also request an in-school visit from an environmental educator to provide assistance and guidance in the integration of environmental education at the local school site.