The Outdoor School



Course Descriptions

Even before you come on your trip you can begin getting an idea of what classes and activities you would like your students to experience on their trip. Please read the descriptions as all classes are not appropriate for every grade level. In the event there are multiple schools that want to participate in the same classes, priority will be given to the school that submits its information first.

List of Courses

Ropes Course/Climbing

1. Teambuilding

1 or 2 blocks, 4th grade – adult:
(Also known as “Low Ropes.” This is a misnomer – most of the elements/activities in Teambuilding have no ropes involved.) Students will be given a series of problems or tasks that they must solve as a group. Often the only way to complete the task is by using every member of the team. Each team is unique as to what strengths they possess and what areas they need to work on, so the facilitator sets the goals and situations for each individual team to ensure a challenge with success. After each element or activity the facilitator will “process” the group. Processing is the act of talking about the last accomplishment in order to discover the strengths and weaknesses of the group and to keep improving skills as a team. Emphasis for this class can be placed on trust, communication, listening and leadership skills, strategic planning, cooperation and sharing of ideas. This can be a 1-block or 2-block activity. 2 blocks will allow for greater progression of the team building process.

2. Climbing Wall

1 block, 4th grade-adult:
Although individually challenging, the Climbing Wall is an excellent extension of teambuilding. Each student is responsible for setting his or her own goals, but it often takes the entire team to show support and encourage one another to meet his or her goals. We have two basic philosophies at The Outdoor School: 1) “Challenge by Choice” is the philosophy that each person sets his or her own challenge. Although no one can force a person to meet his or her goal, with encouragement students can often go further than they believe that they can. 2) “Universal Respect” is the philosophy that all people deserve respect. No one has the right to be disrespectful with cutting or belittling remarks – if a student doesn’t meet his or her goal, the team becomes instrumental in helping that student reset the goal.

3. High Ropes Course

1 block, 5th grade-adult:
While the High Ropes Course can be done alone, it is a wonderful extension of the Climbing Wall. Our philosophies used with the Climbing Wall still hold true for this activity as students are faced with the continuing challenges of height and goal-setting.

4. Screamin' Eagle

1 block, 6th grade-adult:
This High Ropes element is offered separately from our other elements. The Screamin’ Eagle is also known as a Screamer, or Giant Swing. The participant is attached to a cable and the other teammates use this cable to pull the participant up to the height of his/her choice. Once the swinging participant is ready to fly s/he releases her/his tether and swings. This element is a lot of fun and gets the whole team involved in the experience. This activity is group-size restrictive and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

5. High Ropes/Power Pole

1 block, 7th grade-adult:
This course is for older students who wish to expand on the basic ropes course experience. The High Ropes/ Power Pole is a great combo class that challenges your students and encourages team support.  For the Power Pole, participants climb to the top of the pole, stand on it, and then jump toward a trapeze.  Students will also be able to do our five element high ropes course.

6. Pirate Ship Ropes Course

1 block, 6th grade-adult:
The Pirate Ship is a twenty element high ropes course along the banks of Lake LBJ. This ropes course allows several participants to be in the air at one time and experience multiple elements on the continuous course.

7. Climbing Wall/Zipline

1 block, 7th grade-adult:
This course allows older students to enjoy the great reward of ziplining once they make it to the top of the climbing wall.

Adventure Courses

1. Archery & Fishing combined

1 block (1/2 block each), 4th-7th grades:
This combination class gives students a nice introduction to both archery and fishing and is one of our more popular courses. In the archery segment students will learn how to safely fire a bow and the proper technique of shooting. In the fishing segment students use a simple cane pole and hot dog (or other bait) to catch their fish. They will learn how to bait their own fishhook, how to correctly hold a fish and how to safely remove it from the hook.

2. Archery

1 block, 6th grade-adult:
If this course is taken as a stand-alone rather than in combination with fishing, students will have more time to shoot, thus becoming more comfortable and proficient. A more indepth look at the history of the bow and arrow and how it has evolved across the centuries can also be explored.

3. Fishing

1 block, 6th grade-adult:
If this course is taken as a stand-alone rather than in combination with archery, students will have more time to fish. Students will also learn the parts of a fish and about the different species that live in Lake LBJ. We do continue to use the simple cane pole rather than a rod and reel in order to prevent students from hooking each other as they cast.

4. Kayaking

1 block, 4th grade- adult:
We are fortunate to be situated on Lake LBJ so that we can give students the opportunity to learn the basics of kayaking. This class covers basic strokes, entering and exiting the boat, as well as some river dynamics. Weather and ability allowing, we like to take the students on a short kayaking trip along the edge of the lake or to a canal across the lake.

5. War Canoes

1 block, 6th grade- adult, group-size restrictive:
If you’re interested in Kayaking but are looking for more of a teambuilding aspect, consider taking War Canoes. Each canoe seats 12 and students must work together in order to successfully maneuver the craft. Weather and ability allowing, we like to take the students on a short trip down river. The canoes must be carried a short distance to the lake – they are heavy and the students must be physically strong enough to carry them, thus the age restriction. Please consider the physical capabilities of your students before choosing this activity.

6. Outdoor Skills

1 block, 4th- 6th grades:
This is an introductory class that teaches students basic skills in the outdoors. Students are introduced to two concepts: LNT (Leave No Trace) principles as a way to reduce our impact on the outdoors; STOP (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan) as a tool of what to do in an emergency. Putting together a basic survival kit and learning how to properly build a fire are integral parts to this activity. Roasting marshmallows cooked on their fire is often the way we conclude this class (campfires are prohibited if the burn ban is on)!

7. Survival Skills

2 blocks, 7th grade-adult:
This course is designed for older students. Following the “Leave No Trace” philosophy, focus can be placed on survival situations, basic compass work, shelter building, wilderness first aid, fire starting, water finding, and edible plants. Survival scenarios given to the students can help them decide what they should do in certain situations. Group problem solving tasks issued to the students with limited supplies helps students work on group communication skills and develop leaders as well as followers (campfires are prohibited if the burn ban is on).

8. Beginning Compass Course

1 block, 6th grade- adult:
For beginners who may have a limited or no knowledge of compasses we offer a course that introduces the compass. This course includes basic function and parts of the compass and allows students to experience our “in-camp” compass course. This course is best for 6th graders and higher functioning 5th grade students and older students.

9. Wilderness Campout

2 blocks & 1 Evening Activity, 7th grade- adult, group-size restrictive:
No experience is quite like the one of spending the night under the stars. Students will hike out to their campsite in our backcountry, led by an instructor who will share knowledge about edible plants and native animals and lead experiential games designed to teach more about the natural world. Students will cook their dinner over a fire, enjoy a campfire and s’mores, and watch the stars. This activity is meant to provide a unique overnight experience that promotes confidence, teamwork, and natural awareness in a wilderness setting. We have three campout sites, so we can take three teams of fifteen in a night. You will need to consider how many students you have and how many nights you are staying to determine if this activity is feasible for the size of your group (campfires are prohibited if the burn ban is on).

Social Studies

1. Diggin' History

1 block, 5th and 6th grades:
Our archaeology class simulates a dig for ancient artifacts from prior civilizations. While using the various tools archaeologists employ to unearth objects from a dig site, students can investigate how scientists hypothesize about and make inferences about what they find. Students can also explore what future generations might conclude about what our society leaves for others to discover.

2. Living Off the Land

1 block, all ages:
Students will be introduced to several different native plants and animals that were used by the Tonkawas and other local tribes. They will learn unique and interesting ways that the Native Americans used these plants and animals for food, medicine, shelter, tools and clothing. This class is full of opportunities to taste some of the food and/or make some of the objects that the Native Americans did. We have a small teepee village set up in our wilderness property for the students to explore and examine.

3. Stepping Back in Time

1 block, 4th- 6th grades:

On our property, we are fortunate to have the original log cabin built in 1851 by the Noble family, the original homesteaders in this area. We use the Noble’s cabin and family history as the backdrop for this class. Focus is placed on the reasons that people moved west and technological changes since 1851. This is one of the most hands-on classes we offer and activities include: planting and working in the garden; using a plough; exploring the process in building a log cabin; using a two-man saw; and caring for farm animals.


Natural Sciences

1. 3-2-1 Contact Earth

1 block, 5th and 6th grades:
This class focuses on the processes that lead to the formation of sedimentary rock and fossil fuels. This includes discussion on weathering, erosion, deposition, and ultimately the creation of fossils and fossil fuels. Students will discover the importance of these processes in Texas’ history and economy. Lab stations include the use of sand sieves, rock hammer, soil tap, and field guides.

2. Acres of Life (spring only)

1 block, 5th grade – adult:
This course is only offered in the spring. Students will look at the biodiversity of life here at The Outdoor School. Using a sixteen square-foot plot, students will look at the number of plant species, species density, and relative density within that plot. Animal species native to our area are also explored and a discussion of the food web and the importance of species variety leading to a stronger ecosystem concludes the class.

3. Birds in Flight

1 block, 4th-6th grades:
We’ve all wondered what it would be like to soar through the skies like a bird; this class focuses on the function of flight, the structure that allows for flight, and the unique characteristics of birds that enjoy flight. Adaptive characteristics required for survival and reproduction will be explored. Students will attempt to identify some of the native species of birds in the area by sight and/or songs.

4. Cool Things in Nature!

1 block, all ages:
Students and instructors will explore The Outdoor School property and discover the abundant plant life, animal life, and physical features of The Outdoor School. There is no set lesson plan for this class because it offers up the opportunity for instructors and students to enjoy all the teachable moments our property has to offer. Instructors will strive to make connections between Cool Things in Nature and other classes that the students have participated in during their time at The Outdoor School. The primary goal of this class is to instill a healthy curiosity in students about the natural world around them while encouraging students to observe, ask questions, and explore.

5. Critter Collection


1 block, all ages:
Students will be introduced to the three most commonly found types of “critters” on our property (insects, arachnids and myriapods) and then will go out and physically collect them. They will search through field guides in order to identify what they have caught, label it, and classify it. Other activities include looking through microscopes to view specific parts of insects (antennae, eyes, legs), and identifying what is in our own insect collection. Instrumentation includes collection nets and jars, field guides, our own insect collection and microscopes and slides.

6. Green Machine

1 block, 4th-6th grades:
Students will understand the need to prolong the life of our natural resources and to reduce waste by reviewing the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. They will make connections between the materials we use, how they are used, what resources made them, and how they are disposed of. Students will define composting and identify the components of backyard composting. They will define and give examples of renewable, nonrenewable and inexhaustible resources. Specific sources of energy will also be addressed during one of the many activities in this class. Students will be introduced to more environmentally conscious alternatives and exercise better decision-making skills as consumers.

7. Reptiles!

1 block, all ages:
Students will be introduced to four specific Orders in our reptile class: snakes & lizards; tortoises, turtles & terrapins; tuataras; alligators & crocodiles. Students will explore more in depth: Snakes & Lizards; Tortoises, Terrapins & Turtles; Tuataras. They will learn about the unifying characteristics of reptiles as well as the unique characteristics within each order. They will be able to identify the subtle differences between species, and will learn what characteristics are present in venomous snakes in North America. They will also have the opportunity to handle our resident reptiles.

8. Water Quality Studies

1 block, 5th -7th grades:
Students will be introduced to a brief history of Lake LBJ and the concepts of water conservation and protection. They will perform chemical and biological tests on the water of Lake LBJ in order to determine the health of the lake. Testing includes pH, Turbidity, Nitrates, and a macro-invertebrate dig. Students will be asked to think of ways that they can help conserve this very precious natural resource. Instrumentation includes test kits, microscopes, and D-nets.

Language Arts

1. Nature Journaling

1 block, all ages:
Students will focus on different forms of writing: scientific, stories and point-of-view. Beginning with scientific writing, students will use their senses to explore the descriptive, factual and objective words and phrases that can be used in order to convey meaning, much like Lewis and Clark did in their journals. Each student will find a place to sit alone and write about a specific object that they discover (a cactus leaf, a tree, a fox hole) to practice scientific writing. Using the object described in the first section, students will then write a story based around that object (a legend about the spines on the cactus leaf), exploring different ways to convey meaning – this form of writing does not have be descriptive, factual, or objective, as with scientific writing. Lastly, students will again use that object, but will give it a point-of-view (how the cactus feels about having spines on its leaf). Students are asked to share some of their writing with others in the class.

Fine Arts

1. Art in Nature

1 block, 4th-6th grade:
Students will begin by reviewing the basic elements in art such as line, shape, form, color, texture, space, and value. They will then get the opportunity to experience natural art here in the Hill Country by walking the trails to discover some examples of the art elements. The students will also collect items during their walk to use in creating their own art.


1. How Tall is That Tree?

1 block, 6th grade:
This class focuses on geometry and relationships in order to determine the height and age of a tree. The properties of an isosceles right triangle are learned/reviewed and used in order to determine height. Proportional measurement is also explored to determine height. Students will also look at the age of a tree using the rings and circumference. Instrumentation includes triangulation devices, protractors, tape measures and rulers.

Night Activities

1. Astronomy

1.5 hours, all ages:
This class focuses on the night sky. Students will be taken on a “constellation tour” exploring the different constellations visible during that time of year. Instructors are familiar with interesting facts and/or different legends and myths revolving around these constellations and share them with the students. Students will also have the opportunity to look through our telescope and view heavenly bodies more clearly – our favorites include Jupiter, Saturn, and the Orion Nebula, depending on the time of year. If the moon is full and thus “hiding” other objects with its light, more time will be spent on moon studies.

2. Night Sensory Activities

1.5 hours, 6th grade-adult:
This activity is designed to help students become comfortable in and adapt their senses to the dark. Activities such as the smell game, drawing in the dark, and the noisemaker game illustrate to students how nocturnal animals utilize their senses in the dark. The solo walk is a great way to address night fears and how to deal with them. If you are going on a campout, these activities are already included in that program.

3. Games, Campfire & S’mores

1.5 hours, all ages:
Do you want to give your students a “mini-summer-camp” experience? We have a blast with such activities as “Steal the Bacon,” “Alaskan Baseball,” and relays. Our creative and talented staff has a huge pool of ideas to utilize in creating the perfect game night for your students, no matter what the age. And what better way to end the evening than making s’mores and singing songs at the campfire?

4. Organized Sports

1.5 hours, all ages:
We have basketball, tennis, pickleball, and volleyball courts, GaGa pits, and fields to play soccer, football or frisbee. We can organize a real game for you (like Ultimate Frisbee or Soccer) or just set out the equipment and let the kids play while we supervise. This is a great way for them to burn off some of that excess energy, and gives them a chance to play a little. Remember that if your school is swimming, that will happen during their free time so this gives them a chance to enjoy the other recreation we have to offer.

5. Dance

Approximately 1.5 hours, 7th grade-adult:
Your students will be encouraged to dance the night away with their peers and TOSinstructors alike… of course, teachers are welcome to join in as well! We’ll provide the music (screened for content, of course) and you provide the students. We recommend having at least fifty students in your group for this activity to be a successful one. We have one place suitable for dances, so this option is on a first-come, first-served basis.

6. Movie Night

Approximately 1.5 hours, all ages:
This is a great option if you would like a quieter, less active night. We have both indoor and outdoor facilities for watching a movie on a big screen, so we can watch no matter what the weather. We ask that you provide your own movie DVD so that you can ensure that the content is appropriate for your students. We have one set of projection equipment, so this option is on a first-come, first-served basis.

7. School Programming

We have a number of facilities available to you if you wish to do some programming of your own in the evenings. There is a large temperature-controlled meeting room, amphitheaters, outdoor covered pavilions, campfire rings, and plenty of outdoor space!

Let us know as soon as possible if you wish to do this, as facilities are limited.

Off-Site Day Trips

1. Enchanted Rock

4 blocks, 6th grade- adult, group-size restrictive:
At Enchanted Rock State Natural Area there are many activities to explore. Depending on your group size, our staff can lead groups through the “wild” cave at the park. We can lead the class in a geology tour of our granite surroundings or interpret the fragile ecosystems of vernal pools and coexisting ferns and cacti. The chances of seeing abundant wildlife here are also high. History has many tales to tell in this park; it was one of the last places in the area that the Native Americans kept as a stronghold. Going through the cave is time-consuming, so we ask that if you have more than 75 students you plan on more than one day for this activity. Please note transport is not included in the cost of our program. Please ask for busing details for off-site trips.

2. School Led Trip

Would you like to take advantage of our beautiful location and visit one of the many state or county parks in the area? Or maybe take your students on a visit to nearby Austin?  Let your planner know what you are thinking about and we can let you know how to best fit it in your schedule!