Inspiring Mountain Stewardship

Education Programs

Experiential education programs have been the core of TMI’s Appalachian Program since the very beginning. Our signature Mountain Learning programs bring adventure, conservation, and education together in an academically rigorous environment. The many courses offered through these educational programs focus on leadership development and cooperation through hands-on activities and exploring the great outdoors! Many of the schools that we work with have been bringing students to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center since the early 1980s. Our program offerings have changed a great deal since our early years, but our philosophy has remained the same–we believe that bringing students outdoors to experience true hands-on experiential education is one of the best ways for students to learn about themselves, their peers, and their environment.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”  –Sir John Lubbock, 19th century British biologist

These courses can be based at our residential education facilities, the Spruce Knob Mountain Center; field-based, in the Monongahela National Forest which surrounds our facilities, or off-site. As of April, 2017, Experience Learning has assumed  The Mountain Institute’s Appalachian Program educational activities and has acquired the Spruce Knob Mountain Center property. For more on Experience Learning, check out their website.

Essential Elements & Activities of TMI Programs

Essential Elements & Activities of TMI Programs
TMI’s Mountain Learning courses combine:
  • Group Dynamics
  • Team Development
  • Service Learning Projects
  • Geology
  • Forest Heritage
  • Beaver Pond Ecology
  • Stream Ecology and
Other key components of our educational programs are:
  • Orienteering and Hiking
  • Nocturnal Explorations
  • Astronomy
  • Canoeing
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Survival Skills and
  • Caving
For Educational Courses taught after 4/17, contact Experience Learning.

Current course info is available on their website.

Field-Based Programs

Field-Based Programs
During field based programs, students spend a week living and exploring the outdoors together. Working in small groups, students set up a basecamp at the edge of the Spruce Knob Mountain Center or in the bordering Monongahela National Forest. From this basecamp, students explore the ridges, summits, valleys, and caves of the area. Day hikes are punctuated with teambuilding activities and lessons pertaining to the flora, fauna, geology, and geography of the area. Each night, the students return to camp to cook, clean, play, and rest. The combination of cooperative living, hands-on science activities, self-sufficiency, and group learning in an immersive setting helps to form bonds and foster confidence that will last for a lifetime. Field-based programs are recommended for middle and high school students.

For Field-Based Programs taught after 4/17, contact Experience Learning.

Current course info is available on their website.

Residential Programs

Residential Programs
Residential programs, based at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, are ideal for younger children, shorter visits, or science-intensive programs. When staying in dormitories, participants are not expected to cook or set up camp as they would be in a field-based program. This is ideal for students who would like to focus on other challenges and make greater use of SKMC’s indoor facilities.Traditionally our programs begin with a parent and student meeting at your school. We present a slideshow to help prepare for the trip and answer any questions both groups may have.

Students explore the surrounding area on day trips that are typically two to four days in length. Students sleep in dormitories and meals are prepared daily by our cooks.

For Residential Programs taught after 4/17, contact Experience Learning.

Current course info is available on their website.


Summer Camps

Mountain Stewards is a summer service program designed to give youth an impactful experience amongst West Virginia’s lofty mountains and pristine valleys. The 6-day expedition blends stewardship, experiential education, and exploration in one of the most biodiverse environments on Earth. This summer, Experience Learning is offering separate programs for both high school and middle school aged participants.
  • High School

    High School Program

    The majority of the week will be spent in the Blackwater Canyon partnering with the Friends of the Blackwater on a trail reclamation project. As they backpack campsite to campsite, the group will pitch tents and begin to learn the time-honored art of campcraft – including tent and tarp set-up, fire building, cooking in the woods, effective water treatment, knot tying, and proper waste disposal. The days will be filled with a variety of adventure, learning, and stewardship opportunities (clearing hiking trails, replacing trail markers, and creating erosion control systems). As they make their way back to Pendleton County, the group will stop and spend the night at Seneca Rocks, where they will explore the area, the swimming hole, and enjoy celebratory pizza. They will mark the end of the week-long expedition with a guided top rope climbing adventure before they make their way back to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center to prepare for the journey home. Participants will be awarded 20 hours of community service credit. This program is open to anyone entering grades 9-12.

    For info on 2017 High School Programs taught by Experience Learning, check out their website:
  • Middle School Program

    Middle School Program

    The middle school program is a wonderful introduction to how we take care of our environment, our peers, and ourselves in wild places. The program will begin and end at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center. The first and final night will be spent in our onsite dormitories – getting to know one another on the first day, and reflecting on the shared experience the final night. The group will spend the majority of the week base camping in the surrounding Monongahela National Forest. Here they will learn the time-honored art of campcraft – including tent and tarp set-up, fire building, cooking in the woods, effective water treatment, knot tying, and proper waste disposal. The days will be filled with adventure (orienteering, caving), learning (ecology explorations), and stewardship opportunities (onsite project TBD). Participants will be awarded 10 hours of community service credit. The middle school program is open to anyone entering grades 6-8.

    For info on 2017 Middle School Programs taught by Experience Learning, check out their website:
  • Farm Based

    Farm Based

    Throughout the course of the week, campers and staff together will maintain the 560 acre Sweet Water Farm. Each day campers will spend a small amount of time completing necessary farm chores (livestock, gardening, cooking the day’s meals). At the beginning of the week, each camper will participate in a survival skills workshop where they will focus their time on learning the primitive art of fire-making using a bow drill. Here, each participant will have the opportunity to create their own bow drill kit, and practice their skills. Throughout the course of the week, the campers will be challenged to use their bow drills effectively to make fire. Mid-week marks the beginning of the camper driven backpacking trip. As a group, participants will create a trip plan using a topographical map, and will be responsible for packing the appropriate food and gear. While on the expedition, campers will learn the time-honored art of campcraft – including tent and tarp set-up, cooking in the woods, effective water treatment, knot tying, and proper waste disposal. The end of the week will be spent back at the farm, partnering with Trout Unlimited on a riparian restoration project. Participants will earn a total of 20 hours of community service hours for their work on the farm and must be over the age of 13 to participate.

    For info on 2017 Farm Based Programs taught by Experience Learning, check out their website:
  • All Girls

    All Girls

    Providing girls an opportunity to come together, without distraction, to celebrate their ability to thrive in a backcountry setting. The first and final night will be spent in our onsite dormitories – getting to know one another on the first day, and reflecting on the shared experience the final night. The group will embark on the backpacking portion of the program on day two when they head into the Seneca Creek Backcountry. Along the way they will spend time swimming at the high falls of Seneca Creek, camping near a pristine mountain spring, and exploring the scenic high meadows. The expedition will end at the summit of Spruce Knob where campers will shuttle to a local crag for a guided top rope climbing adventure before they head back to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center to prepare for the journey home. Onsite stewardship project (TBD). Participants will be awarded 10 hours of community service credit. This program is open to girls ages 10 – 17.

    For info on 2017 All Girls Programs taught by Experience Learning, check out their website:.
  • Family Night

    Family Night

    Campers will have the opportunity to show their families around our mountain campus, go for a hike in the national forest, enjoy dinner served at the yurts, and spend quality time around the campfire sharing s’mores, the night sky, and wonderful company.

    For info on 2017 Family Night Programs taught by Experience Learning, check out their website:
Since 1972 The Mountain Institute has partnered with remote mountain communities in the highest, longest and oldest mountains of the world. We work together to conserve ecosystems, develop sustainable livelihoods and protect unique mountain cultures.