Auburn Outdoors — Group

Auburn University, Auburn, AL

Photo of Auburn Outdoors staff accepting their award.

Some of the Auburn Outdoors team following the ceremony. Pictured from left to right: Scott Harper, Sarah Parker, Jennifer Hazelrigs, Shelby Burgess, Dylan Olsen, McClain Perry, and Colt Fetters.

The wellbeing benefits that result from spending time in nature have long been recognized, and a growing body of research verifies that positive physical, emotional, and mental outcomes flow from experiences outdoors. Yet average Americans spend 93% of our time indoors, and young Americans spend 50% less time outdoors than their parents. As a consequence, many children are missing the benefits of time in nature, and are not developing an appreciation for the natural world that will empower them to become advocates for nature when they are adults. Thus the importance of Auburn Outdoors, an adventure-based education program which exists to give college students and employees a variety of opportunities for immersive outdoor experiences.

Located in the Recreation and Wellness Center, Auburn Outdoors (AO) offers outdoors programming for novices to experts. AO has a large collection of outdoor gear available for rental. A full-service bike shop provides resources for students to repair and maintain bicycles and teaches bike repair and maintenance skills and techniques. The bike shop and community that forms around it contributes to Auburn’s increasingly bike-friendly campus, and helped the university receive the first, and so far only, Bicycle Friendly Campus designation in the state.

AO relies heavily on well-trained student employees to educate and mentor their fellow students. AO student staff members gain and practice leadership skills as they teach and guide their peers, conducting a variety of skill-building workshops to develop confidence and competence for enjoyable outdoors experiences. Student staff members lead weekend and extended backpacking, paddling, climbing, and biking trips to regional and national destinations, including places like Moab, Utah, and the Appalachian Trail.

An important part of AO programming is responsible and ethical behavior in nature. To achieve this AO teaches the Leave No Trace Principles. The point of Leave No Trace is to avoid human-created impacts in natural settings and AO practices Leave No Trace on all outdoors excursions.

Auburn Outdoors has existed for only three years. In that time, it has created a community of passionate outdoor enthusiasts more in touch with the natural world, and more confident of their abilities to enjoy nature responsibly. Perhaps even more important, AO is creating personal connections to the natural world that create advocates for nature’s protection and restoration.