The Student Experience

Outdoor Leadership Program Faculty

All members of Sandia Prep’s Outdoor Leadership Program faculty are WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certified.

Outdoor Leadership Program

Through Sandia Prep’s nationally accredited Outdoor Leadership Program (OLP), students experience adventures that allow them to know and appreciate the outdoors, grow in confidence, and develop leadership skills that will last a lifetime.

Accredited by the Association for Experimental Education (AEE) in 2000, Sandia Prep’s OLP Program is only the 5th secondary school in the nation to receive AEE accreditation.

Founded in 1993, the program grew out of three observations:

  • Valuable learning often takes place in settings other than the classroom.
  • When students are placed in situations where they must deal with demanding or unfamiliar parameters, there is positive, personal growth.
  • New Mexico and the Four Corners area provide unlimited resources for learning about geology, geography, history, ecology, literature, art, culture and language.

The Program

In the OLP, students develop and improve skills as they participate in progressively more challenging outdoor experiences. Students may find the “hard” skills — finding camp sites, setting up tents, tying knots, using cook stoves, packing backpacks, layering clothing, administering first aid, orienteering — useful as they enjoy outdoor recreational experiences throughout their lives.

“Soft” skills learned through the OLP — leadership, communication, problem solving, planning, decision-making, teamwork, self-confidence — will apply generally to all areas of a student’s life. It is these lessons in leadership and teamwork that bring the greatest lifelong value to young people.

Camping Associates

Camping Associates are the students who comprise the essence of Sandia Prep’s Outdoor Leadership Program. Modeled after Scouting and other outdoor leadership programs, the OLP is sponsored by faculty but led by students — and this helps make the program unique.

Upper School students who sign up as Camping Associates, or “CAs” as they’re known at Prep, are trained in first aid, outdoor skills and leadership. CAs use these skills directly as they work with faculty advisors to plan, organize and lead trips for the Middle School Program. Such cross-age group interaction embodies Sandia Prep’s philosophy of school family and the importance and value of role models.

Middle School Program

Students in each Middle School grade have the opportunity to participate in camping trips throughout the school year. During these trips, youngsters are introduced to camping, and learn new skills as they grow in knowledge and confidence.

Sixth-graders take a three-day trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Southern Colorado where they are introduced to camping while exploring the 700-foot-high sand dunes.

Seventh-graders learn about spelunking in lava tubes on one of four three-day trips to a primitive camping environment 125 miles west of Albuquerque, the El Malpais National Monument.

Eighth-graders learn more advanced skills during any of three four-day backpacking trips that travel to such areas as the Gila Wilderness, Cruces Basin Wilderness and other isolated places within the Southwest. They also have a chance at learning cross-country skiing and snowshoeing while on a three-day winter trip.

Outdoor Classroom

Three Outdoor Classroom trips are offered during the school year; each is four to five days in duration. During these excursions, Upper School students learn about their environment while using advanced skills in backpacking, kayaking, rock-climbing and cross-country skiing.

During these trips, students focus their attention on the following:

  • Responsible, no-trace camping and the human impact on wilderness areas.
  • History, ecology and geology of the area: much of the learning takes place as a result of student-generated questions and discussion.
  • Regular academic load: students must stay current with their regular Sandia Prep courses; study time is built into the schedule each day.
  • Interpersonal communication: prompted by the group dynamics that occur in an outdoor environment. Learning stresses responsibility, empathy, compassion and cooperation.

Parent Participation

Sandia Prep parents are an integral part of the Outdoor Leadership Program. They volunteer as drivers and as additional adult supervisors, enabling Sandia Prep faculty and Camping Associates to teach and guide younger students. Parents who participate in the OLP gain a hands-on feel for the School and its philosophy. Additionally, their suggestions and ideas are sought and considered as the faculty advisors continue to develop the Outdoor Leadership Program.


Wednesday Oct 14


Thursday Oct 15

Upper School Play

Thru: Saturday, October 17, 2015
Friday Oct 16

First Marking Period Ends