Living Classrooms for Hard-to-Reach Students

Kids can be hard to reach. Whether it is because of an introverted nature or a diagnosed disorder, some of our youth are cutting themselves short. Where we recognize their potential, their self-image is defeated. Luckily, living classrooms exist to help kids break out of their shells.

Typical school experiences fail to impact all teens. For that reason, entrepreneurs have built unique learning opportunities to help kids build skills in leadership, teamwork, problem-solving and goal setting. The programs offer experiences that inspire teens to be their best. Parents and educators can make a positive impact on a teen's future by making one of these alternative learning programs accessible. Living classrooms offer special, exciting ways for kids to learn about themselves and the world in which they live.

Outward Bound

Outward Bound dedicates its living classroom to teaching leadership, teamwork, and self-reliance. Expert certified leaders bring small groups into the wilderness to experience an adventure like no other. Throughout the U.S., government and private land owners have partnered with Outward Bound to make experiences such as dog sledding and rock climbing possible. Outward Bound's programs commonly involve backpacking and camping.

Groups begin with a leader who acts not as a guide, but as an instructor and mentor. Day by day, groups engage in using specialized equipment, learn to read maps, and work to sustain their lives while in the wild. Many experiences also include a service project such as maintenance work in a national park or wildlife sustainability on state lands.

To enrich the experience, the group reserves time for reflection. Individuals are encouraged by the group leader to share their thoughts and feelings. Leaders facilitate discussions with the goal of building positive self-esteem. Most excursions in the wild culminate with a solo experience in which the group leader is a distance of a few miles away from the rest of the group. This is often reported by students as being the most significant part of their journey. The final step in each adventure is a debriefing session that allows for the sharing of self-discoveries.

In addition to providing services to school-aged children, Outward Bound has programs for bereaved families, veterans, and corporations. A wide range of programs exist. They vary in length, difficulty, and location (a few of which are outside the U.S.). Tuition varies among programs, but one may apply for a scholarship.

To learn more about Outward Bound's expeditions, visit their website ( This site also provides information on staff training, testimonials, and statistics on Outward Bound's effectiveness. They may also be contacted by phone at 866-467-7651.

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

Based out of Lander, Wyoming, NOLS teaches technical and leadership skills to those aged 14 and older. Their expeditions extend worldwide to offer activities such as horsepacking, mountaineering, backpacking, and practicing wilderness medicine in unfamiliar environments.

As is for this and Outward Bound, participants are encouraged to be physically prepared for challenges their bodies must endure while on the expedition. Risk management is another skill taught in NOLS courses. Keeping one's body safe is a primary concern of NOLS, but there is no guarantee everyone will complete a course unscathed.

Request a viewbook at to learn more about their expedition. The website includes course information such as: age requirements, expedition duration, location, and cost. Students may also be eligible to earn high school or college credit for completing some expedition courses. Speak with an NOLS representative by calling 800-710-6657 or 307-332-5300.

Global Leadership Adventures

Global Leadership Adventures partners with communities abroad to inspire high-school-aged students. Their programs last from one to three weeks. Inspired by the Peace Corps, Global Leadership Adventures includes service projects in their living classrooms. Students face real challenges plaguing people from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. Students may build a school or care for wildlife during a learning experience. Thrilling opportunities abound: from going on a safari to zip-lining, Global Leadership Adventures has something for everyone.

Unlike other living classrooms, with Global Leadership Adventures students enjoy life as a tourist as well. They may visit both rural and urban areas, often taking time to sight-see at major attractions. No camping is involved either; students lodge in hotels or facilities owned by Global Leadership Adventures.

Request a catalog by visiting or call 858-771-0645.

Turn-About Ranch

Sometimes hard-to-reach kids benefit most from being involved in both a classroom setting and a living classroom. All programs at the Turn-About Ranch are customized to meet each student's unique needs. In addition to being a real ranch, Turn-About Ranch is also an accredited middle school and high school. Students aged 13 to 17 may learn from curricula covering their grade's standards, but not all will attend school at the ranch. Students have opportunities to learn life skills such as leadership, teamwork, accountability, and responsibility as they engage in ranch chores and service projects. Besides learning technical skills while maintaining the ranch, they will also learn horsemanship.

Therapy may be provided for some students as well. Turn-About Ranch prides itself in positively influencing young people with a range of disorders; however, one need not be diagnosed by a physician nor adjudicated by a court to apply at Turn-About Ranch. Young people with behaviors such as isolation or poor school performance may attend. Family problems may also encourage students' attendance.

No financial assistance is provided, and tuition cannot be claimed on one's insurance. To receive a price quote for your student's unique program, contact Turn-About Ranch at or call 800-842-1165.