Save ODL Overnights!

Thank you to all those who’ve reached out with their support to Save the Overnights at the Outdoor Lab! Please spread the word to other Outdoor Lab supporters, families and school groups and check back at for updates.

Send Emails to Decision-Makers

Share in your own words what makes the ODL Overnights such a magical experience. You can include the impact the Overnight had on you as well as any pictures you may have. Your outreach will help decision makers really understand how significant cutting the Overnights would be to Arlington students and families. Please be respectful and don’t disparage other APS programs. While this is NOT an end to all Outdoor Lab programing, it could be the end to the 5th grade overnights, one of the most popular programs. So let your voice be heard! Save the Overnights!

(More Talking Points and Key people and contacts Below) Please cc on emails so we can track all of your support.

Superintendent, Cabinet, Key Staff (

School Board (

County Board (

  • Libby Garvey, Chair
  • Takis P. Karantonis, Vice-Chair
  • Matt de Ferranti, Member
  • Maureen Coffey, Member
  • Susan Cunningham, Member

Meet with Decision-Makers!

Wear your Outdoor Lab Merch, make a sign, sign-up to speak if you can. All ages welcome!

Additional Information

Talking Points

General Points

  • Urge Superintendent & Cabinet to restore the Outdoor Lab Coordinator position
  • Urge School Board Members to reject proposal in Superintendent’s FY 2024-25 budget to eliminate the Outdoor Lab Coordinator position.
  • Urge County Board to provide funding necessary for this important and unique program

Position to be cut is an Educator (NOT a central office position)

  • All of you understand the Outdoor Lab provides unique learning opportunities for students throughout APS.
  • The Lab Coordinator position is critical to delivering the educational programming and maximizing the benefits for our students.
  • The 5th grade Overnights are often the most remembered experience of all of APS
  • The ODL Overnights are valued by ALL schools and children of on all points of APS family spectrum

Position is a direct link between Outdoor Lab and science learning

  • The ODL Coordinator is the only position based at the Lab that provides a direct connection between classroom teachers and STEM learning experiences at the Lab.
  • The ODL Coordinator not only helps 3rd, 5th and 7th grade teachers prepare for ODL field trips – the Coordinator helps teachers amplify lessons, applied science and critical learning objectives back in the classroom.

Eliminating this position also jeopardizes 5th grade overnights next school year.

  • For this school year, APS adopted additional requirements for staff and parent chaperones at each 5th grade overnight. It requires 1 of 2 Admin level staff to be present at every overnight (one including the Coordinator position which is proposed for elimination)
  • In an average year, there are about 40 overnights, usually 2 each week in the fall and spring.
  • With only 1 ODL Administrator to fulfill this requirement, it is hard to imagine that 1 person would be willing or able to sustain a presence multiple nights each week for consecutive weeks between mid-September and Thanksgiving, for example, when overnights traditionally run in the fall. Then repeat this multiple nights weekly in the spring between mid-March and end of May.
  • This is not a reasonable expectation for anyone – it’s almost certainly bound to fail.

With 2 Administrators on site at ODL, this years Overnights were few

  • And consider what happened this fall when the new chaperone and staffing requirements took effect.
  • Of roughly 20 scheduled overnights, only 6 actually occurred
  • The ODL Coordinator worked with schools to get Volunteer Chaperones vetted and coordinate all details of upcoming trips
  • without the Coordinator, the ODL Supervisor would be preforming roles from 3 former APS employees

History- Proposed budget Cuts and Effect on The Outdoor Lab

At the February 29th School Board meeting, Dr. Durán presented his proposed FY2025 budget. In a tight budget year, there are cuts across all departments; however, a couple proposed cuts greatly affect the Outdoor Lab and starting next year may CANCEL 5th grade Overnights.

The proposed budget eliminates the ODL Coordinator Position, threatening the viability of 5th grade overnights and compromising the ODLs mission to deliver hands-on STEM education to APS students. The decision to reduce staffing is particularly alarming in light of the SIX leadership changes the ODL has faced since 2018. To function efficiently, the ODL needs strong, supported leadership and continuity. For that, the ODL needs funding from APS. We need your help to make this happen.

Previous leadership changes shifted the mix of teachers and administrators on-site and at Syphax. The proposed change would leave:

  • ONE Administrator doing the functions of THREE former staff
  • ONE Administrator at all 40 overnights
  • NO science professional at the ODL
  • NO direct connection between neighborhood classrooms and lessons at the ODL

In Spring of 2023, Overnights were cancelled to perform a safety and staffing review. The resulting Overnight Plan included:

  • Current Staffing of 2 on-site Administrators (Supervisor & Coordinator) 5 Resource Assistants and 1 Custodian
  • Requirement that TWO staffers be present at all overnights (1 Administrator and 1 Staffer)
  • chaperones ratios increased to 1 Adult per 5 students (from 1:10 previously)
  • tent sleeping arrangement change requiring 2 Adults to sleep in Large tent with up to 10 students

In Fall of 2023, under the new plan, only a handful of the 20 scheduled Overnights occurred. The primary cause of conversion of a School’s Overnight Trip to TWO Day Trips was lack of vetted Chaperones willing to sleep in tents with kids.This Spring, we hope more 5th graders can stay overnight, but with proposed changes, next year’s Overnights seem unlikely.

If you support the unique and wonderful 5th grade overnights, please take action and help pressure APS to restore the ODL Coordinator position and fully fund the Outdoor Lab.

Send an email to Supt. Duran ( and the APS School Board ( and say:

Please also spread the word to other Outdoor Lab supporters, families and school groups and check back at for updates.

Join the AOEA Board!

The Outdoor Lab is a partnership between the Arlington Public Schools (APS) and the non-profit Arlington Outdoor Education Association (AOEA).

  • APS provides the teachers, educational program and buses.
  • AOEA owns and manages the land and buildings as well as advocates for outdoor education, STEAM curriculum, and hands-on, experiential leaning.

The AOEA is an all volunteer, hands-on organization that keeps this beloved Arlington institution available for Arlington students and families.

We need  members of the Arlington community to step-up and help us in this critical time for educating our students.

We need Board Members for the AOEA!

Current and past Board Members have a variety of experience and skills.  Many are parents, teachers or staff of Arlington schools.  Others are scientists, marketing professionals, real estate agents/builders or consultants.  We need a variety of experiences to challenge our organization to improve and grow.

If you are willing to help Arlington children and the Outdoor Lab (or know someone who might) please contact the AOEA President to learn more about our Board of Directors at  We elect a slate of Directors at our annual meeting in April/May, but have openings year round.

If you’d like to volunteer to help the Outdoor Lab in other ways learn more HERE.

APS Students- Join the AOEA Board

In 2021, the AOEA Board began a student Board Member program.  A great opportunity for those APS students who have benefitted from the Outdoor Lab and want to do more.

The student Board Member participates in AOEA board meetings, offering advice and voting on AOEA business.  They participate in AOEA events at the Outdoor Lab and in Arlington.  And acts a liaison to their schools and student groups in APS.

If you are a rising Junior or Senior at an APS high school and are interested in learning more.  Contact AOEA Board president at

ODL @ the ArlCo Fair 2021

Visit the Outdoor Lab’s Booth (M13) at the 45th Annual Arlington County Fair starting Friday August 20 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School and surrounding grounds, at 3501 2nd Street S.

After your Goat Yoga and before the Pig Races, cool off inside and visit the Outdoor Lab Booth!

Join us at the Arlington County Fair:

  • Fri   August 20 4p – 10p
  • Sat  August 21 10a – 9p
  • Sun August 22 11a – 7p

ODL supports APS LoveTheBus

As APS plans to start Hybrid learning for all students, many families are again focusing on the bus drivers, crossing guards, and transportation staff that get students to school safely.

When students come to the ODL, we rely on our dedicated bus drivers to transport kids to the magic that is the Outdoor Lab.  The APS transportation team coordinates getting a bus and driver out to the Lab, usually between their normal school runs, every school day.  They transport every 3rd, 5th and 7th grade student to the Lab over the school year.

Without a bus and driver, students can’t get to the Outdoor Lab.  APS Staff and the Arlington School Board supported the funding of a daily bus to the ODL and added a second bus for 5th grade overnights.  (about 40 days a year)

Often, one or two drivers are assigned to the ODL for the year and they have gone above and beyond their normal driving duties to make sure students have a great experience.  Even after they retire, some still help at the Outdoor Lab.  Former APS bus driver Paul Diehl joined the AOEA board after his career driving students to the Lab and has worked tirelessly for the Outdoor Lab ever since.

Please join the Outdoor Lab, the AOEA and Lab Staff in thanking all bus drivers, crossing guards and transportation staff during the month long Crossing Guard Appreciation and Love the Bus campaign.

New OutdoorLab Podcast Launches

New Outdoor Lab podcast series: The Biscuit Mountain Breakdown

Welcome to the Biscuit Mountain Breakdown, the podcast where nature and education connect. Join us for discussions with researchers and experts that expand your understanding of outdoor education, nature, and science.

Check out the latest podcast  here

Or search your favorite podcast player for “Biscuit Mountain Breakdown.” 

Here is a link to Spotify.


AOEA Board- resolves to support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

At its December meeting, the Board of Directors of the Arlington Outdoor Education Association reflected on the issues that were spotlighted in our country during 2020.

The AOEA Board resolved that:  “The Arlington Outdoor Education Association is committed to building sustainable, inclusive, equitable, and resilient communities.”

The AOEA also committed also undertake Diversity and Equity training for all Board members.

The AOEA will continue to work with our partner, Arlington Public Schools, to ensure all programs, policies and endeavors reflect our common goals to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

OutdoorLab @ Barnes&Noble Dec 7-8

The Outdoor Lab at Barnes & Noble in Clarendon

Looking for meaningful holiday gifts? Join us December 7th & 8th at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Clarendon or Online, to meet volunteers for the Outdoor Lab.

Gift wrapping will be available at the store on both days. Look for us at the store on the lower level by Starbucks and simplify your Holidays by getting gifts wrapped while enjoying a treat. Volunteers from the Arlington Outdoor Education Association (AOEA), the non-profit that owns the Outdoor Lab, will also be on-hand to share info about our mission.

The AOEA has been in partnership with Arlington Public Schools (APS), serving the children of APS for over 50 years.

Sharing this information with your family and friends would help us tremendously.

The in-store Bookfair dates:

  • Saturday, December 7th  10am-10pm
  • Sunday, December 8th from 10am-9pm

The on-line Bookfair dates:

  • Saturday, December 7 – Thursday, December 11.
  • Go to and use Bookfair ID #12577557 at checkout to link your purchase to our fundraiser

Thank you for your continued support. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

President’s Note- Budget Emergency


The future of the Arlington Outdoor Lab is at stake – we need your help now to convince the School Board to restore funding for the Lab in the 2019-20 APS budget.

The Superintendent’s proposed budget eliminates all funding for the Outdoor Lab. That’s right – it cuts every teacher, every bus, and every school trip to the Lab. Unless the School Board votes to restore the funding, Arlington students will no longer experience unique STEM and outdoor education at the Lab.

Time is Short

We don’t have much time to convince School Board members to restore this devastating elimination of the OL program. The School Board meets on April 9 to make revisions to the Superintendent’s proposal. Board members need to hear from you about the importance of funding the Lab before then.

It’s a tough budget year and the Superintendent has proposed almost $9 million in cuts. The School Board is already hearing from many others urging them to fund important programs identified for budget cuts.

The Outdoor Lab Needs Your Help!

Supporters of the Lab – parents, students, summer campers, and teachers – we need your help to make our voices heard. If Board members hear from us about the value of the Lab, then we’ll be in a much stronger position to convince them to restore essential funding.

You know the Outdoor Lab is a special place for seeing science come to life, taking a hike in the woods, and sleeping in a tent under the stars. The Lab is a unique resource for students in Arlington Public Schools. We need your voice to help ensure the Lab continues to serve thousands of Arlington students next school year.

Act Now!

Please take a minute to tell members of the School Board how important it is to fully fund the Outdoor Lab in the 2019-20 APS budget. Feel free to use the sample comment here – and personalize it based on your family’s experience at the Lab.

It’s critically important to contact School Board members before April 9 when they will vote on changes to the Superintendent’s proposed budget.

Todd Parker, President AOEA

Advocate for the Outdoor Lab

President’s Letter

We have have many dedicated supporters and are very grateful for your support.  With the increasing school population, we want to ensure that we have facilities and resources to continue supporting Arlington Public School (APS) students.
We continue to have discussions with Arlington Public School staff to increase Outdoor Lab staff and transportation so we can maintain the current classes and possibly bring back more high school and 6th grade programs.  This year the Outdoor Lab staff has scheduled a record 43 5th grade overnights!  With the increasing size of 7th grade and 3rd grade classes we have no room left in the calendar for make-up days due to cancellations.  So inclement weather (ice, snow!) precludes a school from having the overnight experience – we are as disappointed as the students!  The Science Advisory Committee and AOEA have both recommended additional staff and transportation to provide additional flexibility in scheduling visits.
We are anxious to move forward with our cottage replacement and other facility projects – but as our past president, Mike Nardolilli, simply stated – “AOEA and APS are running a 3-legged race supporting the OL and if we are not working together – we just run in circles”.  The AOEA needs a commitment from APS (additional resources) to maintain the program for the future.
Express your support for the Outdoor Lab directly to APS staff:
 Your past support has made it possible for the Outdoor Lab to serve the Arlington community for 50 years! Please “pay it forward” and remember the Outdoor Lab at this time of year by making a tax-deductible contribution today!   (online at or mail to Arlington Outdoor Education Association Inc.,  P.O. Box 5646, Arlington, VA 22205)


Todd Parker, President AOEA