What an amazing day. We made skillet oatmeal pancakes on the camp stove, topped with warm, spiced berries, ran around the field more times than I could count, practiced the ‘scooting technique’ that is an important step to biking without training wheels, and were collapsed in a heap on the grass, waiting for parents. All but one camper had gone home. Having exhausted my pile of books, one little camper (we’ll call him G) and I were simply watching the world go by. I happened to look up at the sky and noticed that one of the clouds looked exactly like a feather. I pointed it out to G. He agreed—it was a feather. And then I sat with rapt attention as G—who was 4—proceeded to fabricate an extremely intricate story about a superhero who used the tickling powers of feathers to overcome bad guys.
That was over 2 years ago and I remember it with such clarity. This moment sums up what I love about outdoor education. Nature has an inherent and seamless ability to draw out the most wonderful traits in children—creativity, confidence, wonder, bliss. As the educator, I feel fortunate to be able to help foster those moments.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely already considering diving into the world of outdoor education. This can be an intimidating career choice, but here’s the good news: if you have a desire to learn and teach, a positive attitude, and enthusiasm, you’re well on your way to success. Here are the top reasons why you should seriously consider working for an outdoor education company:
1. Make a Lasting Impact
- During my first season as an outdoor educator I took Boston Public School students on a sailing expedition and witnessed them seeing stars for the first time; for them, the night sky had always been clouded by city lights. While working with Avid4 Adventure’s youngest campers, I helped them experience the unique pride and thrill that comes with speeding through the world on a bike without training wheels for the first time.
- These are both memories and skills that I have no doubt will stay with the kids forever. There is unparalleled magic to facilitating such impactful experiences, and knowing that you are helping your students shape their relationship with the natural world is an unequivocally fulfilling feeling.
2. Work in Beautiful Places
- The gorgeous locations in which I’ve been lucky enough to live and work is one of the very special advantages of embracing the sometimes challenging lifestyle of an outdoor educator and camp counselor. Not many people can claim that their ‘office’ is a mountain top, a dense forest, a rocky shoreline or maybe even open ocean.
3. Define Your Leadership Style
- Being an outdoor educator and camp counselor means working with a huge variety of audiences, both as your student body and as co-instructors. Aside from the training you'll receive, you’ll have the opportunity to experiment with and define your own leadership style. What I’ve learned over the years is that there is a place for every kind of personality in this field; whether you are gregarious and goofy or calm and collected, there will always be a student that appreciates you being genuine.
4. Learn a Lot of Things About a Lot of Things
- I can talk to you at length about the social behaviors of orcas, the science behind why leaves change colors in the autumn, the physics of lift that powers sailboats, or, thanks to my time with Avid4 Adventure, fascinating facts about the Madrone trees that grow in the California foothills, and the marine wildlife that frequents the waters of the San Francisco Bay.
- I know these things not just because they are intriguing tidbits of knowledge, but because I was fortunate enough to have to learn them for various jobs, so that I could be the most well informed instructor possible. The greater variety of work you embrace, the more you learn, and the outdoor industry has a knack for offering a huge range of possibilities.
5. Make Connections and Build a Network
- In my time as an outdoor educator, 7 years, 10 states and over a dozen jobs later, I have amassed quite the contact list. One of the great things about shifting between seasonal work is the sheer number of people you meet. Each new job brings new coworkers who have likely also traveled the country (or globe!); they come with unique backgrounds and experiences which means they can offer ideas of where to go or what to try next.
- Because outdoor education is a relatively close-knit community, you can often get some first-hand insight into companies at which you may have already been considering employment; aspects like work-life balance and company culture that can be hard to assess when you’re in the throws of applying for your next adventure. Better still, there is a certain magic about being mutually responsible for the livelihood of a gaggle of young students that has a tendency to spark life-long friendships among fellow instructors.
6. Grow Your Technical Skills
- My first foray into the outdoor teaching industry came when I took a job as an educator aboard a 120ft schooner (a.k.a sailboat) with zero sailing experience to speak of. This particular organization’s operation fell firmly in the ‘trial by fire’ category, which certainly doesn’t work for everyone. Somewhat miraculously, I simply embraced the challenge, acquired sailing techniques as fast as I could, and relied on my strong teaching background to engage my students.
- What’s important to keep in mind is that you are almost never hired with the assumption that you are already an expert in your field. Instead, most companies almost always offer on-the-job training, and opportunities to learn from co-workers. One summer with Avid4 Adventure, for example, allowed me to enhance my SUP, kayak and biking instruction which was extremely beneficial as I hadn’t tackled these sports in a professional capacity before working there.
7. Get Paid to Lead a Physically Active Lifestyle
- If you follow Avid4 Adventure’s blog, or indeed if you are just someone who seeks fresh air on a regular basis you are likely at least subconsciously aware of the plethora of physical and mental benefits that come with being outside: lower levels of stress and anxiety, decreased blood pressure, and enhanced focus to name just a few. Now imagine if it were your job to not only take advantage of those benefits but share them with youngsters!
8. Find Your Passion and Share It
- The beauty of this field is the sheer variety of work you can experience in one season. It may take a little while, but once you figure out that you really feel at home in the woods, as opposed to on the water, for example, you will inherently become a more powerful teacher; excitement breeds excitement and your students know when you are truly passionate about something.
- Though a slightly more materialistic perk to working in the outdoor industry, access to all kinds of nifty deals on gear is a perk nonetheless. Whether your company sells SUPs at the end of every season at a discount, or you have the option to sign up for deals on Chaco sandals, these offers usually come with a small amount of upfront effort and a large amount of long-term pay-off as the items are often ones you use everyday for your job in the field.
10. Hone Your Soft Skills and Build Your Confidence
- Moving through seasonal jobs comes with its challenges. Sometimes you have to pack up and hit the road every three or four months. This process can absolutely be tiring, but it also builds character traits like resilience, resourcefulness and adaptability—all skills that will not only help you become a better educator yourself, but allow you to navigate life’s challenges with greater confidence.
I could go on...I could tell you that many jobs in outdoor education come with room and board, or that you get to make money while playing games, or that it’s perfectly acceptable—if not encouraged—to get your clothes dirty while you’re at work, or that you’ll (almost) never need to dress up as a job requirement. Or, you could just dive in and see for yourself. Chances are you’ll learn new skills, meet inspiring individuals and have some incredible experiences that may just change your entire life trajectory.
Avid4 Adventure is an outdoor education company where we empower kids to choose active, outdoor lifestyles through sports like biking, rock climbing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, hiking and more. We’re now hiring to fill outdoor educator and camp counselor summer jobs for overnight camp, day camp and expeditions in California, Colorado and Oregon.
The best part is, you don’t even need in-depth technical skills to apply! We’ll provide all the training you need.
Learn more about working at Avid4 Adventure:
- Avid4 Adventure Ranked One of Outside Magazine's Best Places to Work in 2020
- Forbes Features Avid4 Adventure: Key to Success is High-Quality Staff
- What Our Staff Have to Say About Working for Avid4 Adventure
- 20 Reasons Why We Work at Avid4 Adventure
- "Why" Avid4 Adventure
- Avid4 Adventure Ranked One of Outside Magazine's Best Places to Work in 2019
- What Sets Us Apart? Our Incredible Camp Staff