Engaging Youth as Community Leaders in Outdoor Education Research, Program Design, and Evaluation


  • Alayna M. Schmidt Western Carolina University
  • Andrew J. Bobilya MS Experiential & Outdoor Education, Western Carolina University




community engagement, youth participation, youth-adult partnerships


When considering community impacts of outdoor education (OE), youth are community members, leaders, and experts who can and should be meaningfully involved in the design and evaluation of OE programs and research that impact them. Ensuring youth have agency in these processes can create opportunities for building community (Brennan, 2008), making connections with diverse audiences (Arunkumar et al., 2019), cultivating youth leadership development (Brennan, 2008), and connecting multiple generations with each other and with the outdoors (D’Amore, 2016; Mannion et al., 2010; Peterson et al., 2019). Additionally, youth are leading movements toward the future they want for themselves and those who will come after them. Adults are critical allies in the success of these movements. Researchers and practitioners of OE have a responsibility to facilitate young people’s meaningful participation in the programs and related research that impact them in order to more fully realize the previously noted community impacts. This paper summarizes select models for youth participation which can be applied specifically in OE contexts and provides suggestions for practice and future research to spark conversations around how OE practitioners and researchers as adult allies can engage youth as community leaders in every phase of program and research design and implementation.

Author Biographies

Alayna M. Schmidt, Western Carolina University

Alayna Schmidt is completing her MS in Experiential and Outdoor Education at Western Carolina University.

Andrew J. Bobilya, MS Experiential & Outdoor Education, Western Carolina University

Dr. Andrew Bobilya currently serves as Professor and Program Director of the Masters in Experiential and Outdoor Education (EOE) program at Wester Carolina University.


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