Spending A Gap Year Outdoors

Is your teenager wondering what to do when high school ends? Does she love to hike, or does he want to travel and camp in the backcountry?

Maybe a “gap year” focused on the outdoors would be a good next step.

More and more educators are seeing the value in young people spending a year after high school exploring their options and gaining experience before starting college or work. Princeton University, for example, several years ago established a tuition-free bridge year program for selected students who commit to nine months of international public service.

Many gap year programs allow young people to spend time outdoors, working on their own leadership skills as well as land conservation, scientific research, and other environmental issues.

AMC recently created a gap-year and summer internship program, which helps young adults explore careers in outdoor recreation in Coos County, New Hampshire.

Here (with a nod to Karen Ingraham, who compiled this list) are a few other organizations that offer semester and gap-year programs that focus on outdoor recreation and environmental conservation:

Student Conservation Association
Conservation internships at U.S. national parks, community greenspaces, and other cultural landmarks.

National Outdoor Leadership School
Semester-long courses in outdoor leadership, education, or wilderness medicine and rescue in domestic and global locations.

Outward Bound
Semester and gap-year courses in the U.S. and abroad designed to foster wilderness survival, leadership, and life skills. 

Global internships in marine and wildlife conservation, animal rescue, community outreach, education, and other disciplines.

Living Routes
Opportunities for academic and experiential learning about sustainability in ecovillages or indigenous communities around the world.

Photo of Jesse Bunnell, a former AMC intern now working on staff, outside the Highland Center in New Hampshire, by Rick McCarten.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an AMC Outdoors blog written by Heather Stephenson.

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