Quick Look: Storer’s Outdoor Environmental Education Program

Quick Look: Storer’s Outdoor Environmental Education Program

I wanted to invite Curt Reigelsperger, Director of Curriculum at YMCA Storer Camps, to discuss some of the important work-taking place in Storer’s nationally recognized outdoor environmental education program.

Some quick facts: The Storer Outdoor School is a hands-on total immersion learning center serving more than 120 elementary and middle schools each year. From it’s very beginning; YMCA Storer Camp’s Outdoor Environmental Education program has provided elementary students an amazing introduction to nature by leveraging camp’s natural assets, including Stony Lake and Camp’s 15 distinct bio zones.  “The Great Outdoors” makes science and related curriculum come alive, and significantly more relevant, for each student.  Moreover, take a gander at these quick factoids about YMCA Storer Camps OOE program.  You’ll certainly agree that the results are measurable and significant:

  • Each year, more than 10,000 students and teachers spend 3-5 days and nights on-site at our Outdoor School. Storer’s staff of educators offers more than 30 courses that teach natural sciences, environmental issues, cultural history, and team building through active participation.


  • The importance of outdoor experiences reported in independent studies that show OEE programs raise science scores by as much as 27% and that OEE programs have a positive effect on student achievement in general.


  • Studies show that outdoor educational experiences positively impact student behavior and interaction with peers as shown through improved conflict resolution skills.


Many have heard about STEM as an education movement and most definitely as a buzzword over the past decade or so, and if you may have missed what it stands for, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Those fields of education are being focused on now more than ever because of the economic trend that manufacturing and skilled labor is being overtaken by a wave of automation and robotics based workers. This means the ability to problem solve, code, and program are going to be prioritized in the job force. Our curriculum is working to reflect those movements by helping campers explore and become problem solvers. Children working through our program often will observe and hypothesize about why certain phenomena happen. The power of children playing and observing can be seen at Storer Camps everyday.


Our campers come from varied backgrounds, from the farm to the city and everywhere in between. We develop all students to become stewards of our earth. The environmental programming precedes me by a large amount of time, but it is possibly my favorite part about camp. The enthusiasm which students learn about renewable energy, preventing food waste, and local ecology is inspiring. There is a camp garden which is managed by Tia Black that helps us show how to farm responsibly and how to use compost from our dining hall that becomes the feed for the plants that will then nourish consumers.

We have a classroom, The Net Zero Experience, managed by Kevin Knapp, that walks students through various energy ideas including the carbon cycle, circuit building, latent water and energy usage, energy conservation, problem solving for world situations, and career opportunities in energy. The Net Zero Energy Experience is fun for students because it is completely hands on and interactive. My personal favorite activity in the Net Zero Experience is an interactive display that features a bike pedal and three types of lights, all which require differing amounts of electricity to power. The participants get the chance to use the bike pedal to see which light takes the most of their mechanical (pedaling) energy to power. It is a lot easier for students to then quantify how it takes more energy to light an incandescent light compared to an LED light. This makes a lot more sense to a child than reading a home energy bill. We often hear from the leaders of schools that attend Storer Camps who speak about how their students continue to limit their energy use and food waste in school and at home long after their visit.




An aspect to my job that is new is developing an advisory board for our STEM outdoor environmental education program. February has seen the finalization of who is involved as founding board members and the scheduling of our first board meeting in June. The goal of the advisory board is to include other educators from the surrounding community and abroad to help guide our program. We have selected highly thought of professional educators with various specialties to lead our program. Storer Camps strives to be on the leading edge of educational change and with this group we will have the tools needed to provide continuing excellence.





Thanks Curt Reigelsperger for sharing this piece.


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  • David 'Stoney' Stoneberg

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Storer's 100th CelebrationJune 30, 2018
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