Outdoor Education and Bob Craig’s Legacy


A tribute to our founder, Bob Craig, and all that he created: 
Bob, thanks for believing in the cause of outdoor education and creating KSS so that we could share this experience with so many people.

From my perspective, outdoor education employs some of the most selfless and hardworking individuals I’ve ever met, and KSS is no exception. Our field instructors at KSS, and instructors at other organizations around the country, make each school program a magical experience for their students. This network of amazing people help me love my job.

Nobody goes in to outdoor education to make money, to have conveniences like indoor plumbing or plush offices with enough space for all staff to sit down. You can’t work as an instructor and expect privacy or solitude, or individual tasks. But luckily the rough, communal reality of the job is well worth it.

There is wealth in the fresh air, coziness in cabins built with hundreds of years of history hiding among the nails and chinking. There is comfort in holding staff meetings on shared chairs or clustered together in a stuffy converted bedroom now named The Room of Excellence. A KSS instructor lives as part of a team, works as a team, cooks and cleans as a team. It’s hard to feel lonely, and it’s hard to feel unfulfilled.
I have been fortunate over the years to have found a home at four different outdoor science programs, and I, like Bob Craig, have a firm belief in the wealth of experience and joy these programs offer.

I asked around to friends working in outdoor programs across the country to answer this simple question: What makes the sacrifices worth it?

“I don’t think of it as a sacrifice. When I spend my weekend in the woods teaching kids about squirrel tracks, I am learning and having fun too. EE [experiential education] challenges and changes me too. I love seeing kids learn about different ways to be in this world, and the relationships we form outside help us learn together” – Morgan, Boston, MA

“Its watching the light bulb that goes off in those students where it takes a school teacher 1…2…3 different ways to explain the subject. Traditional school is not a successful avenue for all students and EE/ science school can be an environment where those who don’t succeed in traditional school DO succeed.” – Mandy, Durango, CO

“It gives you the opportunity to expose youth to parts of the world that they might have never known existed, and in doing so, you make them interested and engaged with the outdoors… And you get to play outside too!” Michael, Portola, CA

“My favorite moments are organic – kids reacting to each other and me in an open honest way that is harder to come by in the traditional classroom. It’s a strange life when a 7th grader asks you if you have another ‘legit’ job, but it’s incredibly rewarding when by the end of the program they’ve learned a little bit more about themselves and the world around them.” Amy, Harrisburg, VA

“I find that the outdoors allows youth a space where they want to learn, rather than where they are made to learn.” – Mary Beth, Boulder, CO

“It’s the opportunity to make a wildly beautiful and remote place my home. Then share it with an awesome group of people.” – Nolan, Pinkham, NH

My answer: Each day I get to look at the world through my students’ eyes. Each day I am seeing a new perspective, and experiencing the world as though for the first time. My job takes me away from the screens of technology to experience the world with all five senses – feeling heavy snowflakes landing on my eyelashes, sliding down the trail on cross country skis, uncovering bugs and plant and animal life I haven’t seen before. Every day I witness my students’ realization of the intrinsic value of our natural world. It is, after all, about perspective and our mission as outdoor educators and students of life is to understand as many viewpoints as possible to make the world a more compassionate, forgiving, and FUN place for all living things.