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

Outdoor Lab Spring Open House April 20

Celebrate Earth Day at the Outdoor Lab!

The Outdoor Lab Spring Open House is coming up on Saturday, April 20, 10am-2pm. Bring the family and come see what the Outdoor Lab offers! Register Today.
outdoor lab spring open house April 20
Volunteers are also needed — great opportunity for students to get those volunteer hours! Signup Here.
And if anyone is interested in getting more involved with the Arlington Outdoor Education Association (AOEA) to support this APS resource, we have openings for adult and student Board members; Learn More.

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.

AOEA partners with ARMN

The Arlington Outdoor Education Association (AOEA) is proud to announce a new partnership with the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN)!

ARMN’s mission is to increase the quantity and quality of healthy, biodiverse, high-functioning ecosystems.  They work directly in the field to restore native habitat by removing invasive plants and cultivating natives. They provide education and outreach to the public and communicate to various audiences about habitat restoration, local wildlife, and related topics. We collect data to measure the health of our ecosystems and share results to contribute to scientific research.  They are an all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to the vision of a healthy and vibrant system of natural lands.

ARMN’s Master Naturalists, like the AOEA, already partner with Arlington Public Schools (APS) to educate students and their families on their natural environment and improve school yards in Arlington.  They also work with a multitude of Arlington agencies and non-profits to improve Arlington’s ecosystem.  This new partnership leverages both the AOEA’s and ARMN’s similar missions to extend stewardship to the “little slice of Arlington” that is the Outdoor Lab.

The AOEA is welcoming ARMN volunteers to the Outdoor Lab to extend their professional development on our 226 acres with a variety of sub-ecosystems- both healthy and endangered.  The Outdoor Lab staff will share their ODL specific knowledge with ARMN volunteers and learn from the vast experience of the Master Naturalists and their network of experts.  For example, ARMN volunteers will meet at the Outdoor Lab for a salamander and amphibian night hike and learn about research conducted by former ODL Director Neil Heinekamp on our mascot- the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).

The AOEA and ARMN are also working on Volunteer Days at the Outdoor Lab where Arlington students, families, and citizens can help remove invasive species, plant native alternatives and improve the ODL ecosystems enjoyed by Arlingtonians for over 50 years.

ODL Overnight Chaperones Needed

What’s it like chaperoning an ODL Overnight

Parents ask what is it like chaperoning an overnight field trip at the Outdoor Lab. Generally, it’s like being a counselor at summer camp. You’ll guide the students through all activities, help with the family style meals in the dining area, and sleep with the students in big tents overnight. You’ll need to dress for the weather and be ready to experience nature first-hand. (In case of inclement weather, all students and chaperones sleep in our Nature Center!)

Many parents remember their chaperoning experiences fondly (even current school board members!). Students regularly remember it as one of the best experiences in their entire APS career.

Per APS policies, there will be one ODL administrator and one ODL staffer at every Outdoor Lab Overnight.  They provide guidance to students and parents to pull-off a magical group experience! Meet the ODL Staff Here. APS developed a video to help Chaperones learn about Overnights, you can view the video here.

How do I become a Chaperone for my school’s trip? (for schools, parents & PTAs):

Each school has a staff member that coordinates the overnight trip (often the 5th grade Science Teacher); each school also has an APS Volunteer Liaison that manages the volunteer approval process (Liaison List by School Here). Find these school staffers and let them know you want to be a chaperone!

  • volunteers start the online process at the APS Volunteer in a School webpage
  • when a parent registers online to be a volunteer, they get a thank you email (from Raptor System, check your SPAM folder)
  • their request waits in a queue of the Volunteer Liaison at “their” school
  • when that liaison advances the request, then the email with the sexual misconduct video is sent to parent (from Raptor System)
  • parent completes the online training, passes the end of class test (80% correct) DO NOT LEAVE online training system yet
  • parent must DOWNLOAD certificate of completion from online training and EMAIL to their school’s Volunteer Liaison
  • once Liaison receives that completion email, they can approve Volunteer

START EARLY! There are a few points in the above process that can cause a delay.  Please work directly with your school’s Volunteer Liaison if you are waiting at one of the above steps.  All APS volunteer liaisons will be sent the Outdoor Lab Field Trip Schedule for their school.  If there is a problem that the school Volunteer Liaison cannot deal with, parents or schools can contact Dawn Smith, Volunteers, Partnership and Events Manager, at or 703-228-2581.

The AOEA, the non-profit that partners with APS to manage the Outdoor Lab, wants all APS students to experience all programs at the ODL.  As you go through the volunteer process, if you have other lessons learned, questions or suggestions, please reach out to Mike Maleski, President of the AOEA, at

**The Proposed FY2025 budget cuts each School’s Volunteer Liaison, learn more here!

Overnight APS Policy Change History

In Spring of 2023, APS paused 5th grade Overnights to review safety and staffing procedures.

APS added an additional administrator to ODL staff and requires 2 ODL personnel at every Outdoor Lab Overnight (1 ODL administrator & 1 ODL staffer).  Meet the ODL Staff Here.

Over the summer of 2023, new safety policies and procedures were developed for overnights:

  • Large 12-person cabin tents were purchased (to replace multiple 3-4 person tents)
  • 8-10 students are assigned to sleep in a cabin tent (previously 3-4 students/tent)
  • 2 adult chaperones are required to sleep in each cabin tent with students (previously adults slept in their own small tents)
  • Ratio of adult chaperones to students must be 5:1 (previously 10:1 for overnights; remains 10:1 for 3rd & 7th grade trips)
  • Adult chaperones must be of corresponding male/female ratios to students
  • Adult chaperones consist of both School Staff and Parent Volunteers (minimum # school staff also required)
  • All Parent Chaperones must pass online APS Volunteer background check & training 3 weeks prior to ODL Overnight Trip.

In August 2023, All elementary school principals were notified of the new Overnight policies and procedures.  Likewise, all school science leads were given the Outdoor Lab field trip schedule and notified of the new Overnight policies and procedures.  The AOEA, as the APS partner in the Outdoor Lab, has asked APS to notify the APS community more broadly of the changes.

Unfortunately, some of the first schools on the schedule were caught with tight deadlines and a confusing process.  Schools, PTAs, and Parents have all learned how to navigate the process better.

Summer Camp 2024 Registration Open!


The Outdoor Lab offers a week-long science enrichment camp that provides a number of nature-related activities and experiences to Arlington Public School students. Campers sleep outdoors in platform tents and are offered a variety of activities each day, including:

  • Animal Exploration
  • Boating & Fishing
  • Night Walks
  • Games & Skits
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Nature Hikes
  • Survival Skills

Sessions for 2024

  • Session A-   for students entering 7th, 8th, 9th grade:   June 24 to June 28
  • Session B-   for students entering 5th or 6th grade: July  8  to July 12
  • Session C-   for students entering 5th or 6th grade: July 15 to July 19

Registration- now Live

Parents may apply for their student to attend camp by completing a short Google Form on APS site here.

Applications will be accepted on a first come-first served basis until Monday April 15, or until a session is full.

Applications received after a session is full will be placed on a wait list.

How Do I sign up?

Registration Open Now Go Here

Once a student has been accepted, the family will be sent an electronic invoice for tuition. Payment will be made online.

About Us

The Phoebe Hall Knipling Outdoor Laboratory is a 231- acre facility in Fauquier County that provides a natural classroom for Arlington Public School (APS) students. It has a spring-fed stream, a pond, hiking trails, and an Animal Lab.
Annually, the Lab provides hands-on outdoor and environmental education to more than 10,000 APS students from elementary grades through high school.
The Outdoor Lab educational program is operated and staffed by APS, while the property is owned and managed by the nonprofit Arlington Outdoor Education Association (AOEA).

More Info

Summer Camp 2024 Brochure (English) ; Summer Camp 2024 Brochure (Spanish)

More information about summer camp can be found here: Outdoor Lab – Arlington Public Schools (

Questions about summer camp should be directed to Outdoor Lab Coordinator Rochelle Proctor at or 540.347.2258

Camp Counselors

Apply for Counselor-in-Training (High Schoolers)

The Outdoor Lab welcomes APS high school students in grades 9 through 11 to apply to be a Counselor-in-Training (aka Junior Staff) for one session of camp. These are volunteer positions, but students may earn community service hours for their work. CITs participate in all aspects of camp life: student hikes and activities, night programs, helping to prepare and serve meals, clean up, etc. A cooperative spirit and sense of enthusiasm are required!

CIT/Junior Staff Application

CIT Application link: CLICK for link to application

Applications for the CIT/Junior Staff will be available on February 1, 2024. Applications must be submitted by Friday, March 29, 2024Students currently in GR 9 may apply for one of the Elementary sessions

  • Session B: July 8 – July 12, 2024. (Elementary current grade 4-5)
  • Session C: July 15 – July 19, 2024 (Elementary current  grade 4-5)

Students completing GR 10, 11, 12 may apply for either Elementary session or the Middle School session

  • Session A: June 24 – June 28, 2024 (Middle School  current grade 6-8)
  • Session B: July 8 – July 12, 2024. (Elementary current grade 4-5)
  • Session C: July 15 – July 19, 2024 (Elementary current  grade 4-5)

Questions about applying for CIT positions should be directed to Outdoor Lab Coordinator Rochelle Proctor at or 540.347.2258

ODL celebrates Black History Month

The Outdoor Lab Board and Staff celebrate Black History Month throughout February and the entire year.

We continue with our Cultural History Project to research, document, and share the stories of ALL the families who called the Pond and Biscuit  Mountain Gap home.  We continue to research African American families who worked and lived on Outdoor Lab and adjacent properties.

On a visit to the Afro-American History Association of Fauquier County, Outdoor Lab staff learned that part of the Underground Railroad went through our property.  The oral history was that enslaved people escaping through Fauquier were told “Follow the Pine/Pond Mountains” to freedom.  The map shows the path along the Bull Run Mountains (of which our Pond and Biscuit are a part) to safety with Quaker supporters in Waterford.

We continue to partner with other researchers, families and organizations as we progress with the Cultural History Project.  Please check back to see our progress.  If you have an interest in helping please contact

Giving Tuesday- Support the Outdoor Lab!

We hope you will demonstrate your love for outdoor, hands-on STEM education at the Outdoor Lab.

Your gift today supports the conservation and stewardship of the 226-acre Outdoor Lab property and facilities.

Every year over 9,000 Arlington Public School students explore the natural environment and engage in science learning at the Outdoor Lab.

Thank you for your generosity.


ODL Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

The Outdoor Lab staff and board celebrate Native American Heritage Month.  We reflect on the great contributions of Native peoples to our Commonwealth and Country and strive to learn and tell their stories of achievement.  The land of the Outdoor Lab was originally settled by Manahoac peoples, a Siouxan speaking tribal alliance, which descended from Mississippian mound building cultures.  They originally inhabited the Ohio River valley region, with one group migrating east, sometimes called the Eastern Sioux, and another migrating West.

The Manahoac had little interaction with the English colonists in Jamestown and were shielded by the Powhatan confederacy on the coast and Tidewaters.  In addition to diseases introduced by Spanish and English explorers, the Manahoac faced pressure from the Haudenosaunee confederacy (Six Nations of Iroquois) and Susquehannock tribes (Iroquoian speaking, also known as Conestoga) who raided their Piedmont homes. The Manahoac migrated South toward the related Monacan tribes and eventually merged with them and the Siouxan speaking Tutelo, Saponi, and Occaneechi.

What we have learned about the Manahoac culture comes from the few interactions documented by Europeans, often through translators from rival tribes,  and their archaeological record.  They were semi-nomadic and followed the animals they hunted including Deer, Bear, and Eastern Buffalo.  They generally settled near streams and rivers and built palisaded villages with small round or oval dwellings covered with reeds and bark.  They grew the Three Sisters of corn, squash and beans and managed their game lands by prescribed burning of forests.

In 1608,  colonist John Smith explored up the Rappahannock river to its headwaters and documented various tribes and settlements of the Manahoac.  Smith captured a wounded Manahoac warrior named Amorolec who told Smith about the tribes of the Manahoac, their enemies and related tribes who lived from the Fall Line up to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia’s rivers. The Whonkentia were settled in current Fauquier County and we can assume from artifacts found at the Outdoor Lab that other Manahoac tribes were living along Broad Run and its tributaries here at the present Outdoor Lab.

In 1754, Thomas Jefferson observed native peoples conducting ceremonies at a burial mound near his Monticello home in Albemarle County, Virginia.    He later dug into the mound and recorded his findings in an organized fashion as part of his Notes on the State of Virginia (1787).  Jefferson is recognized as an early archaeologist for this work.

The Monacan nation exists today and in 2018 became a federally recognized tribe with tribal land at Bear Mountain in Amherst County, Virginia.  The Monacan nation recognizes the Manahoac as part of their ancestors.  A living history presentation of a Monacan Village can be seen at Natural Bridge State Park.

The Outdoor Lab encourages you to learn more about the Manahoac and other native peoples and their rich history, culture and accomplishments in our history.

Bio-Diversity at the ODL

The Outdoor Lab is comprised of 226 acres including a mountain gap, streams, springs, pond, meadows and woodlands.

Every school day, students hike our trails and meadows, catch creatures in the streams and pond and immerse themselves in their natural world.

The Outdoor Lab staff and the supporting non-profit, the AOEA, work tirelessly to protect and improve the ODL’s Outdoor Classroom and diversify the flora and fauna of the Outdoor Lab’s eco-system.

We are committed to removing non-native and invasive plants and replacing them with natives.

Native plants are better suited to their environment and can survive and thrive with the water and nutrients found naturally.  They also provide food and habitat for native insects and plants.