If ever there was a time when kids needed to learn more about tolerance, understanding and how to accept others who may be different from them, it is now.

In middle school, where their social lives are beginning to form, these important lessons are often best taught by nudging kids outside of their typical comfort zone. Through experiences that give them an opportunity to interact and relate with other kids beyond their “normal” circle of friends, their vision of the world widens. Suddenly, they begin to realize and understand that no matter what race, religion, physical attributes, background, economic status or otherwise–kids are kids, with more things in common than differences.

Outdoor School not only provides kids with the opportunity to get outside in a very real sense, but also an invaluable chance to get outside their usual social tribes. By creating a situation where they learn how to live with kids they may not know and who are different from them, they figure out how to create strong bonds and see beyond the superficial. For many, Outdoor School puts into practice the deeper lessons of tolerance and acceptance that simply can’t be found in the course of a normal school day.

That’s the Outdoor School experience that hit home with Jeff Kohnstamm, the President of Timberline Lodge. Being from a family who regularly enjoyed the outdoors while growing up, it was the social lessons he learned that stuck with him.

“I was fortunate enough to attend Outdoor School at an early age, and at the time in my life, I pretty much didn’t realize there were kids who weren’t like me or my friends,” said Kohnstamm. “It was the first opportunity I ever had to get to know kids from other economic situations, whose backgrounds and life experiences were completely different than mine. It’s what I remember most about Outdoor School and it had a huge impact on me.”

Getting kids to put down their devices and learn how to solve issues, tackle new challenges, eat, play and work together as a community builds their confidence and gives them a fundamental understanding of how to create strong face-to-face relationships with people from all walks of life. It is a lesson for a lifetime, and one the world certainly could use more of today.  Please support the effort to Save Outdoor School and find how you can get involved.