Long known as "Ex Ed," outdoor education at Albuquerque Academy includes programming in adventure, environmental, and wilderness education, as well as leadership development. The program is accredited by the Association for Experiential Education and has been a unique feature of the Academy since 1975. At the program's inception, then Headmaster Ashby Harper wrote, "The program is based on the conviction that students can learn in a rugged wilderness environment some of the important values which cannot be learned in the classroom." As the program has evolved, the Academy has steadfastly maintained that conviction.

"Ex Ed" is mandatory for students in grades six through nine, and takes place on Academy lands and wilderness areas throughout New Mexico and the Four Corners region. Classroom-based courses with field components are optional for students in grades 10-12.
  • Grade 6: Each student participates on two-day hikes (one in the fall and one in the winter) and one overnight camping experience in the spring.
  • Grade 7: Each student spends four days and three nights camping in single-gender groups in Bear Canyon, the Academy's property in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.
  • Grade 8: The entire class participates in a week-long retreat in the Jemez Mountains at the beginning of the year designed to allow students and faculty to build relationships as they enter a new division.
  • Grade 9: Throughout the year, small co-educational groups of students participate in a remote backpacking trip in a regional wilderness area.
  • Grades 10-12: Electives available to students include Outdoor Leadership I, Outdoor Leadership II, Southwest Survival, and Whitewater Kayaking. Course descriptions can be found under Academics > Curriculum.
Although activities are varied, the program achieves coherence through three sets of unifying student goals:

Intrapersonal Goals
  • To increase self-awareness
  • To understand personal boundaries, values, and challenges
  • To confront self-imposed limitations and fears
  • To accept responsibility for their personal well-being
  • To develop an understanding of personal leadership skills
Interpersonal Goals
  • To increase students' awareness of themselves in relationship to the group
  • To acknowledge the interdependent nature of human systems
  • To demonstrate respect, empathy, and compassion for others
  • To accept personal responsibility for the health of the group
Environmental Goals
  • To increase environmental awareness
  • To adopt a minimum impact ethic
  • To increase students' confidence in the natural world
  • To accept some responsibility for the health of the environment
The program is based on the conviction that students can learn in a rugged wilderness environment some of the important values which cannot be learned in the classroom.

List of 6 members.

Questions About Ex Ed

List of 12 frequently asked questions.

  • What if my child needs to change trip dates? Who should I contact?

    All requests to change a scheduled trip should be sent to Chris Dineen (grade 7) or Martha Palmer (grade 9).
  • What are the logistics and timing for trips?

    Parents receive "Trip Notes" about the trip in an e-mail, twp weeks before the trip departs. Trip Notes contain information regarding the itinerary, trip location and route, pickup and drop-off locations, who to call in case of an emergency, what time your child will be ready for pick up, and an equipment list. Note: returning ninth grade trips often run early or late. Students will call parents en route to let them of any pick up time changes.
  • Are there bears where you are going? How do you prepare for this?

    The majority of our trips travel into wilderness areas that are inhabited by a variety of wildlife, often including bears. We always practice safe "bear camping" by establishing separate cooking and sleeping areas and hanging or stashing food, cooking items, and any personal products that are scented (toothpaste, sunscreen, lipbalm, etc.). We prepare students with precautions to avoid animal encounters and what to do if they ever do encounter animals. To help us prevent encounters with wildlife, please make sure that your child brings only what is on the equipment list. Students are asked to leave unnecessary personal products (e.g., makeup, cologne, deodorant, food) at home.
  • Can my child bring a pocket knife?

    Yes, students may bring a lightweight pocket knife on trips. Knives must be approved by the trip leader, and must remain in the student's backpack until a knife safety lesson has been taught. Students must display responsible and safe use of the knife.
  • Why can't my child bring cotton clothing?

    There is a term in the outdoor industry that "cotton kills." This is because when cotton gets wet it stays wet and provides no insulation, leaving its wearer susceptible to hypothermia. Please make sure that your child does not bring cotton items. Instead send them with wool, polyester, or polypropylene blends. The Experiential Education department can lend items made of this material if needed.
  • How heavy will the backpacks be?

    Generally, most student backpacks weigh around 20-25 pounds once they are fully packed. This is usually quite disappointing to students who swear their pack must weigh at least 80 pounds! Pack weight can be reduced by making sure your child brings only what is on the on the equipment list and does not bring unnecessary clothing or personal products. It is amazing how much extra weight a T-shirt, deodorant, moisturizing cream, or magazine can add to the pack.
  • What happens if it gets cold, windy, cloudy, or rains or snows?

    The clothing and equipment required for each trip is specifically geared towards ensuring that everyone is well prepared for a variety of weather conditions. It is essential to follow this list to ensure your child's comfort on the trip. Faculty are very experienced and well versed in reading weather patterns and ensuring that the group has its needs met regardless of weather conditions. Trips are not cancelled due to inclement weather unless the safety of the group is threatened.
  • How many miles will we be hiking each day?

    Daily mileage is determined by the route, area, elevation, age of students, weather, water, seasons, etc. Generally, an average hiking day is between three and six miles.
  • Can my child call home while on the trip?

    No. On the majority of trips we are in very remote wilderness areas. Instructors carry the appropriate communication devices to suit the area (either cell or satellite phone). These are only carried for emergencies, and are not used in any other situation as it is essential that the batteries be maintained in case of emergency.
  • If I need to get a hold of my child can I call you on the trip?

    Approximately two to three weeks prior to your child's trip departure "Trip Notes" will be sent home to parents. These notes provide parents with all the details of the trip including location, departure and arrival time, and equipment list. Included in these notes is a list of "On Call Personnel"—a team of people who remain on campus and are your main contact should you have questions during your child's trip. This team has the detailed itinerary, daily locations, and communication device numbers for the trip. If you have an emergency and need to get information to your child while on a trip, the On Call Personnel will try to get this information to the trip leader. Please keep in mind that it may take multiple days or may not be possible to contact a group in the field.
  • What if my child needs a special menu for allergies?

    The Experiential Education department can handle most moderate allergies in menu planning. If your child has very strict allergies or dietary restrictions you may need to pack specific food for the trip. Please call or e-mail the school nurse, Jennifer Duval (858-8876), to discuss any questions or concerns.
  • Do I need to borrow equipment early? Will you run out of what my child needs?

    Before students depart for any trip, they meet with Experiential Education faculty who thoroughly go through all students' clothing and equipment to ensure that they have appropriate items. Any items students are missing or need to borrow are lent to them at that point. The department has a very large supply of items to lend so there is no concern with running out of things. You do not have to call ahead to reserve items.
Albuquerque Academy is a private, coeducational, college preparatory day school serving middle school and high school students in grades 6 through 12, located in Albuquerque, NM.


6400 Wyoming Blvd NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109-3899
ph: 505-828-3200