There are few better feelings than a day spent out in nature. Getting into the outdoors allows us to connect with the world around us, learn more about our environment, and empower us to take on challenges we never thought possible. In addition, venturing through the outdoors can catalyze change, inspiring physical, mental, and emotional improvements along the way. However, access to green space can be limited for underserved youths. To harness the power of the outdoors and provide access to Trenton youth, the Princeton-Blairstown Center has announced the launch of its new Venture Out program.
Venture Out is a high-quality outdoor education program offered free to middle school students in the Trenton School District. This is a 30-hour residential program that provides children with “inquiry-based, hands-on environmental education and social-emotional learning sessions that aim to help students engage more deeply with science and the scientific method, understand that science is fun, and provide opportunities to explore future STEM careers.” The program will be taught by a team from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, who have undergone extensive curriculum training by PBC staff.
Per Pam Gregory, PBC President & CEO, “The impetus for the program came from the realization that students from more affluent surrounding communities near Trenton frequently have opportunities for multi-day trips to outdoor centers built into their schools’ curricula and traditions. This is not the case for Trenton students, who never leave their wards, much less have opportunities to engage in hands-on learning in a pristine natural setting. Research from Stanford University has found that students experienced a 90% increase in social-emotional and academic skills after outdoor education opportunities. We aim to grow this program to one day serve all Trenton middle school students. PBC thanks Janssen and the Princeton Area Community Foundation for their seed funding to support this exciting new initiative.”
The first participants in this exciting new program were members of the Boys and Girls Club of Mercer County. During their time at the Princeton-Blairstown Center’s new campus, students had the opportunity to participate in a forest ecology wildlife and adventure hike and a night hike where students learned about nocturnal animals and the forest after dark. In addition to these immersive environmental science lessons, students had time to unwind at a campfire with s’mores, engage with their peers, and strengthen their relationships with their chaperones.
During their time in the Venture Out program, students had the chance to try new experiences and take on exciting new challenges. Although new surroundings and activities can be stressful, the youth still overcame those fears and created meaningful memories. For example, one participant recalled the nighttime activities as their favorite part of the trip, explaining, “the nature walk was in total darkness, and we learned that owls’ heads do not turn 360 degrees.” These novel new experiences pave the way for a lifetime of learning, and these memories will undoubtedly stick with these children for a lifetime.
The Princeton-Blairstown Center offers adventure-based outdoor education programs to individuals from historically marginalized backgrounds. Per a Trenton Central High School graduate, “Their programs nurture social-emotional learning through experiential, environmental, and adventure-based programming. Developing these skills empowers participants to engage in self-discovery and transform their communities to create a more just world.
Although this Venture Out program is just getting started, the impact felt by its participants will no doubt be felt for years to come. If you’d like to learn more about all the Princeton-Blairstown Center offers, you can check out their website here: Princeton-Blairstown Center – Home. Likewise, if you have any questions, please get in touch with PBC at (908) 362-6765 for additional details. So, if you or your child are ready for your next venture into the great outdoors, check out the Princeton-Blairstown Center today!