Join Get Outdoors Leadville! & Colorado Mountain College

July 19-24, 2021 

Brains on Nature Educators’ Professional Development Workshop

a 6-day professional development experience in Leadville, CO geared toward educators who want to enhance outdoor education opportunities and impacts for their students

FACT: Outdoor experiences can improve academic performance and social-emotional well-being.

FACT: U.S. students spend >900 hours each year in school.

That’s a lot of time.

Make sure some of it is spent OUTDOORS.

Just a few of the many reasons why you should sign up:

  • Earn 56 professional development hours or 5.6 CEUs.
  • Learn how to break down barriers that make it challenging to take your students outdoors for learning and development.
  • Ground yourself in the research supporting outdoor learning as a lever for academic achievement and students’ social-emotional well being.
  • Draw inspiration from other *motivated* educators and a retreat in the mountains to ensure your students get outdoors more often and more effectively.
  • Backpack in the mountains with other inspired, inspiring, incredible educators while honing your teaching craft!

Tuition: $800 -Includes all professional development curriculum to empower you to teach outdoors and all meals starting with lunch on 7/19 (except dinner in town on 7/19), backpacking equipment and instruction, and wilderness camping experience. 

Interested? Email with questions or

or register here (select: Leadville campus, “Outdoors” programs and you’ll see Brains on Nature as the top menu item)

This is a 6-day experience including a 5-day, 4-night backpacking component. No prior backpacking or camping experience is necessary, but a basic level of fitness and a desire to spend time camping and hiking are a must. All required camping and hiking skills will be taught throughout the retreat. The hiking distances are typically about 2-5 miles each day at elevations above 11,000’, with packs ranging from 30-45 pounds. All group work – from cooking to navigating to camp set up – will be shared by participants.

Note – all current Lake County COVID protocols will be followed; more details will be provided closer to the course start.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions

What to bring: 

  • Click here for a suggested packing list. 
  • Click here for a personal gear request sheet to borrow gear from Get Outdoors Leadville!. Note – there is a column with recommended items for this course. You can borrow any personal gear on this invoice *free-of-charge.* Please fill it out and return it to Get Outdoors Leadville! – – as soon as you are able, but definitely by July 9th so we can pull gear and you can arrange a time to come pick it up. Call/email Get Outdoors Leadville! / 719.297.1769 with any questions.


 Overview Itinerary: 

  • July 19 – Arrive at Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville campus, Climax Buiding at 10am; depart at 7pm (***Or stay in CMC dorms – Housing on CMC’s campus can be arranged at a modest cost. Contact Brooke Larson – or 719.486.4291 to book your room for 7/19 and 7/24 if you want to stay after the course ends.***)
  • July 20-24 – Backpacking experience in the Sawatch Mountains near Leadville, CO
  • July 24 – Depart Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville campus by 2pm (or stay in dorms – see above, as this is not included in tuition***)

Detailed Itinerary: 

Date Key Logistical deets Guiding Questions/Themes Activities
  • 10am – Arrive at Colorado Mountain College (901 US-24, Leadville, CO 80461) at the Climax Building
  • Bring your gear for the backpacking trip
  • Lunch will be provided; bring additional snacks if you’re a snacker!
  • Dinner out in Leadville
  • ~7:30pm depart for home (or dorms if you’re staying on campus)
  • Why is nature-based teaching and learning important?
  • Framing – what is the purpose of this PD course?
  • What specific outcomes do you hope to get out of this experience?
  • Goal setting
  • Day hike + picnic lunch
  • Backpacking skills classes, gear review, food packing
  • The science behind nature-based learning
  • Dinner together
  • 8am – Arrive at Colorado Mountain College
  • ~10:30am – Depart for trailhead for backpacking trip
  • What are ways to incorporate nature-based teaching and learning?
  • Where are you, personally, in your journey to incorporate nature-based teaching and learning? 
  • Where are your colleagues? Your administrators? Your district? Your Board of Ed?
  • Hiking & Camping! 🙂
  • Backpacking skills classes continued, pack packs
  • Heuristic for Teaching and Learning Outside
  • Hiking
  • Journaling & self-reflection time
  • Reading and discussion
  • On the backpacking trip
  • What barriers make it hard to incorporate nature-based teaching and learning experiences in your practice?
  • What solutions can we identify to those barriers? Categorize: Which are “easy” (low-hanging fruit) and which are complex? 
  • Start developing plans/tools as possible in the field
  • Hiking & Camping! 🙂
  • Backpacking skills classes continued in situ
  • Journaling & self-reflection time
  • Morning brainstorm & discussion
  • Collaborative work on addressing barriers
  • On the backpacking trip
  • How can we structure nature-based learning experiences to be equitable and inclusive for all learners? 
  • What special tools/resources do we need?
  • Start developing plans/tools as possible in the field
  • Hiking & Camping! 🙂
  • Backpacking skills classes continued in situ
  • Journaling & self-reflection time
  • Morning brainstorm & discussion
  • Reading & discussion
  • On the backpacking trip
  • Action plan for incorporating nature-based teaching
  • Hiking & Camping! 🙂
  • Journaling & self-reflection time
  • Action plan development & feedback
  • Reading and discussion
  • 11am – Pick-up at Trailhead at 11am
  • Lunch at CMC
  • 2 pm – Depart CMC
  • Pledges & sharing
  • Hiking
  • Pledges
  • Course feedback
  • Clean & deissue gear

Additional Information

The “Get Outdoors Educators! Backpacking Retreat” is designed to bring together motivated educators who share a passion for educating youth outdoors, whether it’s just a nascent interest or a well-established teaching practice for you. Get Outdoors Leadville! and Colorado Mountain College have intentionally curated time in an inspiring place (the Sawatch Mountains near Leadville, CO) to immerse in the evidence that supports outdoor learning, discuss barriers and discover solutions to teaching and learning outdoors, engage with kindred spirits to develop systems and tools to make outdoor teaching easier, and connect more deeply with our own relationship to the natural world to inspire your teaching approaches.

This immersive learning backpacking expedition will be led by professional outdoor facilitators and seasoned educators who will draw on the wisdom of participants and the power of the experiential process. Retreat elements include:

  • shared readings and group discussions;
  • periodic solo time for reflection and introspection;
  • examination of behind-the-scenes implementation logistics for academic and culture-building learning experiences outdoors;
  • overview of school-based systems and individual techniques for making every outing a success;
  • investigation of the challenges and solutions to regular outdoor learning experiences;
  • plus the inspiration and camaraderie of a shared camping adventure.

Contact Becca Katz, course instructor, at for more information or with any questions.