Outdoor Experiential Education

The outdoors is a wonderful classroom and playground.
A wide-open canvas for discovering one’s resilience and
power. A pusher-of-limits. A self-confidence charger.

Getting Outside

Physically and metaphorically, we believe in getting outside. Getting outside to experience sports and nature. Getting outside of the limits we set on ourselves.  

There’s nothing like rafting the rapids of a river for teaching students how to think quickly and work together. Or finding the next handhold on a rock climb for overcoming fear. Outdoors, our students become aware of what they’re capable of. They discover new depths of resilience and confidence and take their potential to new heights.

Safe. Intentional. Fun.

Gateway’s outdoor experiential education program provides boys with adventures that challenge them within safe, non-threatening limits. Our outdoor experts are skilled not only in outdoor sports, but in creating experiences that intentionally foster growth. Weekend activities and extended trips include rock climbing, canyoneering, backpacking, skiing, snowboarding and river running expeditions. Each adventure is carefully designed, offering a mix of personal therapeutic opportunities and activities that build connection and cooperation. 

Therapy In A Different Setting

Outdoor experiential education at Gateway extends far beyond recreation. It is a critical element of our therapeutic approach. The discoveries our students make about themselves in therapy – lessons of self-confidence and capability — are reinforced in adventures on the weekend and on week-long excursions.  For some boys, outdoor experiences are key to unlocking the door to their resistance and self-doubt.  

Often, physical outdoor challenges free boys up to admit fears more readily. Most experiences also hold lessons that can readily be extended to “real life.” Climbing, for instance, is a great metaphor:  It’s scary. You can come off the wall – but be caught. It involves teamwork, trust, communication, and problem-solving. And when you succeed, you have other people cheering for you at the top.

It’s important to note that Gateway activities are low-risk in nature, but carry a high perceived risk, which is a great recipe for building confidence and self-esteem. They are adventures that require both physical and social risk taking. Learning to ask for support from one’s peers – and accept it – is an important and valuable skill. At the same time, each student can see firsthand how his choices and behavior influence the goals of the group, and how his support might be just the thing that helps another student succeed. 

“Our weekend outdoor education extends the gains many of our students make in wilderness programs prior to coming to Gateway. Plus we pull together what the boys are learning about themselves during the week and create experiences for them to apply that learning in a whole new setting.”

– Trever Waage, MS, Outdoor Experiential Education Manager



Hallmarks Of Outdoor Education At Gateway:
  • Adventures that build self-confidence
  • Facilitate therapeutic healing
  • Pushing physical and mental limits
  • Practice cooperation and connection
  • Safely balanced risk-taking

many seasons of adventure

Our weekly adventures and extended trips change with the seasons and we are fortunate to have the whole of Utah as our big backyard. Winter adventures find students skiing or snowboarding through a glade of aspens on a powder day.   Backpacking trips are great for learning about self-reliance and one’s “place” in the astonishing scale and beauty of the wilderness. Summer rock climbing, canyoneering, whitewater rafting and kayaking are all about dynamic, ever-changing and challenging environments, complete with obstacles, decision-making and fun.

Gateway weekend trips are not about “athletics.” There is no emphasis on competition, winning or superior sports skill. Nature is an equal opportunity playground. And our program is designed to allow our students to set their own goals, achieve their own successes, and tap into undiscovered strengths.