Field Trip Planning

How to Plan an Outdoor School Trip

Understanding What an ‘Outdoor Education’ Trip Means

If you are reading this, you’ve probably run into a few snags planning your next school trip. You may know Pali for our outstanding summer camps, but did you know we do more outdoor education than anything else?! We can help you plan and assemble a custom course exactly to your liking. But first, a little background. Outdoor education is often referred to as synonymous with outdoor learning, outdoor school, wilderness education. The hallmark of outdoor education is its focus on the “outdoor” side of this education.

At Pali, we like to call it Outdoor Education (or OE for short). When referring to any “education outside the classroom” there are so many options to choose from, that’s why at Pali, we customize a program to your specific needs. Here are the 10 things you’ll want to think about before booking your school’s outdoor education program, some you may have thought of, but others may surprise you.

10 Guidelines to Planning a School Trip Focused on Outdoor Education

1.  Accreditation 

All camps and facilities are not created equal.  Price and distance can be a big factor so be sure the quality of programs and curricula are recognized by one or more licensed body to insure that all NGSS guidelines are followed.  Pali Institute is a leader in outdoor education. We are extremely proud to be the ONLY residential outdoor education program accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC) which holds us to more than one hundred professional standards and guidelines. We also adhere to an experiential model of learning, and are accredited by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE). Through the accreditation processes, Pali Institute is able to maintain high standards for the curriculum, risk management and participant safety.

2. Safety & Supervision

Many factors contribute to a Camps safety including quality of staff, facility & equipment maintenance, and medical facilities and preparedness.  At Pali we believe the most important factor is our highly trained outdoor education staff who provide around the clock supervision and instruction, allowing teachers to relax, observe and engage with their students in educational activities. Two full-time registered nurses are available from 7:00am – 10:00pm. With Pali’s highly qualified team in place, your students will be safely cared for while discovering the wonders of experiential education.

3. Curriculum

Although every provider believes their program is the best, consider the quality of the curriculum. We are confident that the innovative programs at our outdoor school will captivate your students in an entertaining and engaging learning experience! Our instructors have bachelor’s degrees and possess a variety of science and teaching credentials. A full-day schedule at Pali Institute consists of five 90-minute sessions with some double sessions (180 minutes) available for a more in-depth learning experience. Our courses adhere to California, Nevada and Arizona state standards.

4. Flexibility

At Pali Institute we offer a customized program to suit your school’s requirements, with curriculums available for 4th through 12th grades. Educators choose a three, four or five day program and build their experience by selecting from our 30+ class modules in three categories: Outdoor Education, Science and Leadership.

5 . Focus on the do and not the have

“Outdoor learning is more effective when adults focus on what children need to be able to do rather than what children need to have. An approach that considers experiences rather than equipment places children at the center of learning and ensures that individual children’s learning and developmental needs are taken account of and met effectively.”  Linda Tallent, and educational consultant who has worked extensively with schools to develop their outdoor spaces into learning environments, agrees. “Using the real world is the way learning has happened for 99.9% of human existence. Only in the last hundred years have we put it into a little box called a classroom.”.

6. What are your goals?

Outdoor education covers the three domains of self, others, and the natural world. The relative emphasis of these three domains can vary from one program to another, but at Pali we believe all programs should do all of the following:

7 . Facilities

The upkeep and maintenance of the facility, its equipment and grounds play an important roll in safety and quality of experience.  In addition to 55 cabins and 187 toilettes, Pali has 11 full-time dedicated maintenance and 16 housekeeping staff and an 800 sq/ft centrally located infirmary.

8. Accommodations for Overnight Trips

Our comfortable mountain cabins feature solid wood built-in bunks, radiant floor heating, and private bathroom and shower facilities located inside the cabin. Each cabin is supervised by one of our qualified staff members. Visiting teachers stay in our semi-private accommodations with access to a teacher’s lounge complete with computers, Wi-Fi and satellite television.

9. Food Allergies & Dietary Needs

Pali has the newest, most state of the art 29,000 sq/ft dining hall and conference center with a kitchen and bakery that rival most restaurants.  In addition to being a nut-free campus, every meal includes gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options, and with prior notice we can accommodate any special dietary needs.

10. Timing & Approvals

A list of important guidelines would not e complete without mentioning the importance of timing and approvals.  Most school systems whether public or private require multiple signoffs for overnight trips and special programming.  Never underestimate the amount of time it takes to get these approvals.  Don’t be caught at the last minute.  Although Pali can accommodate over 700 people at a time, the prime schedule fills up very fast.  We recommend at least nine months of lead time, with late spring dates filling sooner! Not sure how to pitch Pali Institute to your principal or PTA?  Read our top tips for getting principal or PTA approval

So, make your list, check it twice, and be sure to start planning well in advance of your visit.  Like the old adage “being prepared is more than half the battle.”  We look forward to seeing you at Pali!

Please contact Annie at or 909-939-0888 for any questions!