Outdoor Lab

The Clemson University Outdoor Lab can accommodate both indoor and outdoor supervised virtual learning.
Image Credit: College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

A new academy at the Clemson University Outdoor Lab is providing support to Upstate parents whose children are alternating between virtual and in-person learning or are learning entirely at home this fall.

Starting Oct. 5, the Outdoor Lab Academy will serve as a safe place for up to 30 school-aged children to stay on track with their school assignments and get valuable social time with their peers between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., while also giving parents the time they need to focus on their work.

The Outdoor Lab is a camp and conference center located on a peninsula of Lake Hartwell in the heart of the 17,000-acre Clemson Experimental Forest and is only five miles from the University campus. The lab is housed in the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. Lab Director Leslie Conrad says the academy was developed to respond to what she and her staff have been hearing from parents in the community.

“We’ve been hearing that many parents are struggling to effectively juggle virtual schooling and work deadlines,” Conrad said. “We developed this program to give parents peace of mind, knowing that their child is learning in a safe and healthy environment while they are getting their jobs done.”

The academy is designed as a virtual education support service. Students will continue to learn from their teachers online, including meeting with their classes at assigned times. Outdoor Lab staff will supervise and support students’ work and ensure they remain on task. Staff will also lead academy students in opportunities for play during their free time or learning breaks.

The program is designed for flexibility, allowing parents to enroll their children on a week-by-week basis. It also allows parents to choose how many days are needed. For example, parents can register their child for two half days for $60 per week or enroll them in a full-time, five-day program for $300 per week.

The program has also been carefully planned to maximize student safety. Outdoor Lab staff have spent the past five months updating procedures, policies and practices as directed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Camp Association and Clemson University, as well as studying school and childcare re-opening guidelines. The Outdoor Lab property also has an abundance of outdoor space and several buildings to spread students out as needed for school or study time. Wi-Fi connectivity at the lab has previously been road tested with large groups of faculty, so it can accommodate multiple users during school time.

Outdoor Lab staff have also put safety protocols in place to contain COVID-19 spread. A pre-screening process will help identify possible symptoms and/or exposure before academy students arrive. Children will also be assigned into groups so they are with the same people each day, reducing the possibility of exposure. Face coverings will be required in spaces where appropriate distancing cannot be maintained.

Conrad said the program provides a valuable service the Outdoor Lab is uniquely suited to offer to University and community families.

“As a summer camp facility, even pre-COVID, the Outdoor Lab has protocols in place to support a safe and healthy environment for all who participate in our programs,” Conrad said. “The Outdoor Lab has the space and the ability to provide service to our community families by giving kids a safe, structured, outdoor program that supports their education and offers parents a little flexibility.”

Visit the Clemson Outdoor Lab website for details about its Academy options.