Inside the Outdoors to celebrate nearly 50 years of promoting environmental literacy

Since 1974, Inside the Outdoors has introduced elements of environmental education to Orange County classrooms and provided students with opportunities to explore nature firsthand.

To commemorate almost half a century of the educational outdoor science program administered by the Orange County Department of Education, Inside the Outdoors staff recently reflected on its 49th year of service and plans for expanding access to the environment for young learners. The video above was produced with the help of OCDE’s Media Services team. 

We also spoke with School and Community Outreach Manager Yarib Dheming to find out what OC educators and parents can expect students to learn through outdoor environmental instruction.

“Inside the Outdoors has been dedicated to nurturing a natural curiosity among Orange County students for nearly half a century,” Dheming said. “As we embark on our 49th year, the 2023-2024 programs are brimming with exciting possibilities.”

As the program gears up for its milestone anniversary next school year, the team hopes to gather snapshots of past field trips and projects from teachers, students and community members. Photos can be shared with

Engaging outdoor experiences

Serving about 120,000 people each school year, Inside the Outdoors’ mission is to empower students, teachers, parents and the community to explore natural areas and expand their knowledge, understanding and stewardship of the environment.

As the program recoups from the disruptions previously placed on instruction, the team of outdoor educators has prepared a blend of updated activities including field trips and immersive sessions with traveling scientists to host during regular class and expanded learning hours.

Inside the Outdoors program naturalists lead group activities with students. (Courtesy of Inside the Outdoors)

Students can learn about different local ecosystems while meeting its inhabitants up close during guided visits to OC Parks like Santiago Oaks Regional Park or through classroom visits with the program’s animal ambassadors. 

With multiple opportunities for enrichment, Inside the Outdoors wants to ensure that students who may not have access to field trips can still benefit from an array of traveling scientist lessons with program naturalists, at-home activities for families and weeklong summer camp sessions. 

The team also encourages community involvement by organizing volunteer events, such as the annual MLK Day of Service, to clean up local beaches and nature preserves.

Cultivating environmental stewardship

Adapting curriculum to fit students’ needs has been a priority for the program since its inception. While fostering their natural curiosity through expanded outdoor education opportunities, the team has shifted its focus to strengthening environmental literacy through its strategic partnerships with OC organizations.  

Price Elementary recycling club

The science-based program aims to achieve this by offering free water education programs in collaboration with the Municipal Water District of Orange County. Presentations and lesson plans created through this collaboration teach students grades three through 12 about local water supply sources and how they can use water wisely. 

Through a long-standing partnership with OC Waste & Recycling, Inside the Outdoors has also introduced its Eco Challenge curriculum to dozens of local schools, including Adelaide Price Elementary in Anaheim, with lessons and at-home activities on composting and managing generated waste.

Providing fully-funded resources that demonstrate how to properly dispose of trash or reduce water use helps Inside the Outdoors and its partners inform students of how their actions can positively impact their communities.

“Through hands-on experiences and engaging lessons, we’re not just teaching about the environment — we’re developing the next generation of environmentally-literate citizens who think globally and act locally,” said Dheming.

For educators looking to get their students involved with the program, they can learn more at