Youth Engagement


Launched in 2010, Outdoor Nation is a first-of-its-kind nationwide initiative created by the Outdoor Foundation to engage and activate young adults in the outdoors.

Built on the belief that lasting cultural change must be led by those most affected by the outcome, Outdoor Nation empowers young leaders, primarily college students, to mobilize and motivate a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts. Results include:

  • Held 30 outdoor leadership summits across the country
  • Supported 300 campus and community projects
  • Directly activated 50,000 young people and indirectly reached 500,000 youth
  • Built the largest, most active community of young people championing outdoor recreation

Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge

With major support from The North Face, the Foundation piloted the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge where 10 schools participated in a March-Madness-meets-Mother-Nature style competition for the title of National Outdoor Champion. The Challenge inspired over 43,000 outdoor activities led by nearly 10,000 young people, proving that a little school spirit and friendly competition can mobilize an outdoor movement. In 2015, the goal is to engage more than 50 schools – dramatically scaling the reach and impact.

Survey Says … Outdoor Nation conducted a survey of Challenge participants and their responses demonstrate the potential of this initiative. Below are key findings:

  • 95% believe that the Challenge is effective in motivating ‘outdoor novices’ to get outdoors
  • 93% believe their campus community is more aware of outdoor opportunities due to the Challenge
  • 84% believe that the Challenge will drive lasting interest and participation in outdoor recreation
  • 82% invited others to participate in the Challenge
  • 79% increased their outdoor recreation activities as a result of the Challenge

Connecting Campuses to Communities

The Campus Challenge is just part of our year-round activation strategy. Working with more than 50 schools, Outdoor Nation has thousands of students organizing outings to engage new and diverse audiences. Examples of this on-the-ground impact includes:

  • Across the country, 25 colleges ‘adopted’ a local youth group — engaging hundreds of young people, primarily from underserved communities, in outdoor experiences.
  • In California, young people traveled to the state capital to meet with lawmakers and use their unique voice and perspective to support public programs that connect youth with nature.
  • With support from Aramark, five colleges received grants to strengthen the relationship between their campus community and nearby National Parks.

Success StoryOutdoor Foundation 2

As part of its work with Outdoor Nation, Loyola University students connected with a local organization called the Refugee Youth Project (RYP), which provides after-school programming for refugee youth pre-K through 12th grades in the Baltimore metro area. Through this program, college mentors strengthen their leadership skills and local youth discover nature and opportunity. During one outdoor experience, more than 20 RYP youth were led by university students on a two hour hike of the Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls in Maryland – overcoming cultural divides to share a common outdoor experience.

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