Excellence at Aspen School District: Outdoor/Experiential Education

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1968 marked the beginning of outdoor and experiential education in the Aspen School District (ASD). Since its inception, the program has expanded greatly to offer beyond-classroom educational experiences in which students participate in a variety of challenges and outdoor activities--hiking, climbing, rafting, ropes courses and group initiatives in the wilderness. Over the years, the high school program has evolved to include a variety of national destinations for cultural, artistic, urban or community-based learning.   

Outdoor and experiential education across all grades within ASD involves carefully chosen activities that are supported by reflection and critical analysis--and are structured to require each participant to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results. These experiences offer significant growth opportunities for students that are often life changing.

Program leaders from the district share their passion for its impact on students: 

"It is rare for a public school to be able to provide a program like this. Outdoor education promotes the development of perseverance, empathy, compassion, and the ability to recognize and appreciate each other's differences. It's a learning experience that simply cannot be replicated in the classroom. Reaching the 50-year milestone is a true testament to the collective dedication and support of both the ASD staff and the Aspen community as a whole." Craig Rogers, Aspen Middle School Principal
"Graduates of Aspen High School consistently rank their Ex Ed experiences as the most formative in their high school careers. It is truly unique to have such an array of course offerings all steeped in teachers' passions. The opportunity to meet new people, experience new places, and build community is unparalleled." Sarah Strassburger, Aspen High School Vice Principal
"The outdoor experience is part of what makes our District so special. Students learn skills that they can use for a lifetime and learn the importance of being part of a team. Students can demonstrate skills and leadership that you might not necessarily see in the classroom." Chris Basten, Aspen Elementary School Principal
Ex Ed defines Aspen High School. Whenever we invite our graduated seniors to provide feedback about Aspen High School, it consistently ranks as the most beneficial program we offer for their success in adulthood. It is what sets us apart from all other schools, not only in Colorado but the country!” Tharyn Mulberry, Aspen High School Principal


What are the current needs of the program?

  • Scholarships – Additional funds would ensure that all students have access to courses, no matter the cost. Courses range in price from $150 to $750
  • Scholarships – Additional funds would ensure that all students have access to courses, no matter the cost. Courses range in price from $150 to $750
  • New equipment
  • Training for teachers to guide/lead courses

Note: Outdoor education is predominantly funded by the annual ski swap hosted by AMS each November.