A Different Kind of Classroom:

Outdoor Youth Education in Wyoming

Spring in Wyoming. Fuzz-covered calves romp and wrestle in the sunshine. Brightly colored birds sing through fresh greenery poking out amongst the brown. And mud makes its way into every corner of your home.

As the snow melts and green grass returns with warmer weather, people find themselves outside more and more, enjoying the natural world and interacting with their environment. Cognizant as we are nowadays of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of communing in nature, we celebrate each smiling, sunscreen streaked face we pass on the trail, enjoying each other’s enjoyment. But as more and more people find themselves in wild spaces, and as these spaces shrink smaller and smaller, it’s becoming clear that understanding and education need to accompany this outdoor appreciation.

“Wyoming’s outdoors are a critical element of the state’s vast resources,” explains Andrew Joannides Executive Director of Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom.

“The mission of Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom is ‘To develop students’ understanding of Wyoming’s vast resources in order that they become informed citizens, capable of serving as stewards for Wyoming’s future.’ Through our numerous stewardship lessons [Agriculture, Minerals & Energy, and Outdoor Recreation & Tourism], we work to develop Wyoming youth who care about their state and have a passion for taking care of the outdoors for future use. Helping young people learn about the environment and outdoors will ensure that these resources are alive and well for Wyoming’s coming generations.”

All kinds of learning experiences exist for youth across Wyoming, including the nationwide 4-H program.

“The majority of our county programs across the state engage in camping activities as a way to provide the full benefits of the 4‑H life skills development experience coupled with the fun and adventure of camping in the great outdoors. Outdoor camping not only fulfills a long standing tradition in the 4-H program, it also strives to help connect young people to and educate them about the natural world. We have witnessed a decline (even in Wyoming) in the motivation and opportunity of young people to engage in outdoor education and recreation activities. The 4-H outdoor camping program seeks to provide opportunities for outdoor education and exploration in a safe and fun way - with their friends and peers,” says Warren Crawford, Wyoming State 4-H Foundation Youth Development Specialist.


Adds Molly Hughes, Executive Director of the Hughes Charitable Foundation, “Wyoming is such a special state, wild and noble, and as its tenants, it’s important we show it the respect, love, and treatment that it deserves. Cultivating an interest in and offering outlets for youth outdoor education are the most powerful tools we have in preserving the natural world for future generations.”

The school year is coming to a close for our youth, but the education doesn’t have to stop. And the best part about learning about the outdoors? You get to be outdoors! Let’s make it a summer of learning, a summer of appreciating this amazing world we have, and finding a way of making it last.