The focus of these trips is building community and making real world connections to the students' curricular work
The Outdoor Education Department arranges more than twenty-five trips each year for approximately 400 students and 30% of the Key School faculty and staff.
While most activities are concentrated in the Chesapeake Bay and Shenandoah mountain regions of Virginia, Key School groups also travel elsewhere in the United States and abroad. Transportation for Key School trips is provided by the School or by independent contractors hired by Key.
Outdoor Education Department Head
Protocols & Procedures
The Key School Outdoor Education Department has successfully managed these School sponsored trips for more than forty years with the following established protocols and procedures in place:
- At least one staff member on all Key School outdoor trips is trained and certified in CPR and as a Wilderness First Responder to assist in medical emergencies;
- A set of written protocols guides the decision-making process as related to planning and executing each trip. These guidelines are included in the Outdoor Education Department Manual;
- Members of Key’s Outdoor Education Department work closely with both the School Nurse and School Counselor to share pertinent information related to the physical and emotional well-being of each student, always respecting the individual’s privacy;
- A strong relationship with nationally recognized outdoor organizations, including the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) and the Independent School Experiential Education Network (ISEEN), allows Key’s staff to draw on collective expertise and experience concerning prevailing practices in the field of adventure education at a national level;
- Key School contracts with vetted regional outfitters for the more technical outdoor activities (such as rafting and rock climbing), and many of these companies ask parents/guardians and students to sign required documentation which may include a waiver of liability, including for negligence.
Inherent risks accompany the activities of Key’s Outdoor Education Program. These risks are integral to the activities, such as rock climbing, which, if removed, significantly diminish the character and value of the experience for the student. The risks are those ordinarily associated with moderately vigorous outdoor activities, and include, but are not limited to, accidents related to physical activity, failure of gear and equipment, and weather-related events.
The Key School wants all parents/guardians to understand both the goals of the program and the potential risks associated with their student’s participation in School-sponsored trips. While all parents/guardians sign a release of liability covering School-related activities including those of the Outdoor Education program as part of the enrollment contract, at times, additional signatures may be required for certain School-sponsored trips. The Key School program relies on the leadership of faculty and staff who have significant experience in managing the risks of outdoor adventure education activities. Given the dynamic nature of the environments explored and activities undertaken, there are times when staff members need to make judgment calls in the field. While our staff is carefully selected and well-trained, they are not infallible. It takes a collaborative effort, requiring open communication between the School and parents/guardians, to successfully manage the risks, inherent and otherwise, of our outdoor program. Faculty and staff value the exchange of information with regard to any concerns or questions parents/guardians may have with regard to their student’s participation in Outdoor Education activities.