POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
EDUCATION FOR ALL STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS
Training on trauma-informed practices and diversity, equity, and inclusion is provided for all staff and volunteers who contribute to the outdoor school program, including cooks, maintenance staff, and administrators. Training supports all staff and volunteers in reframing their thinking from deficit-based (e.g., “we need to fix this student”) to trauma-informed (e.g., “we need to change the environment to support this student in coping with trauma”) and prepares staff and volunteers to implement trauma-informed policies and procedures.
SCHOOL AND DISTRICT SYSTEM INTEGRATION
Collaboration and communication between the outdoor school program and the school and/or district contribute to the development of outdoor school environments that are supportive of, rather than re-traumatizing to, individuals who have experienced trauma. For example, the outdoor school program and the school/district may discuss de-escalation or self-regulation strategies that students use in the classroom and/or share information that teachers can use to reduce uncertainty and anxiety about what to expect at outdoor school.
BEHAVIORAL RESPONSE AND SUPPORTS
Strategies and procedures for supporting and responding to student behavior are built on principles of trauma-informed care and cultural responsiveness. For example, responses to student behavior are restorative, and tools for self-regulation (e.g., breathing exercises; 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 exercises) are introduced before a tool is needed. Outdoor school activities and practices are designed to support all students in feeling accepted, valued, and able to participate fully in outdoor school. The staff understands that when students do not feel safe or have a sense of belonging, it can be challenging for students to engage and focus on academic content.
COMFORT AND BELONGING
Outdoor school activities and practices are designed to support all students in feeling accepted, valued, and able to participate fully in outdoor school. The staff understands that when students do not feel safe or have a sense of belonging, it can be challenging for students to engage and focus on academic content.
PROGRAMMING AND CURRICULUM
Programming and curriculum are designed with the whole child in mind. Activities are thoughtfully sequenced to promote belonging and confidence before students are encouraged to take risks and approach new challenges. Programming structure and design contribute to staff engagement and enjoyment rather than burnout.
CULTURAL, GENDER, AND HISTORICAL REPRESENTATION
Trauma-informed practices at outdoor school are built on the recognition that many individuals have experienced trauma, including historical trauma, related to aspects of their identity such as their race or gender. Individuals from marginalized communities are supported in responding to and coping with trauma in ways that meet their needs, with the recognition that there is not a “right” way to cope.
STUDENT AND CAREGIVER READINESS
Students and caregivers know what to expect at outdoor school before they attend, including information about schedules, bunking arrangements, safety protocols, communication capabilities (e.g., cell service), expectations for student behavior, and other aspects of the outdoor school experience.