Outdoor Collegiate

Outdoor Collegiate began in 2011 as a small after-school rock climbing program. Since then, the program has become an integral part of the Collegiate School experience. Using our own campus and all the resources available in Richmond, Outdoor Collegiate exposes students to outdoor adventure, recreation and advocacy, building lifelong skills, a passion around industry best practices and a challenge-by-choice philosophy. Outdoor Collegiate now offers three seasons of after-school activities as well as weekend and break trips around Virginia and beyond.

Seasonal Offerings

Participation in Outdoor Collegiate’s after-school offerings count toward a student’s sports credits. 


Led by Brad Cooke, the Outdoor Collegiate Director, who has two decades of experience guiding and instructing on whitewater, Outdoor Collegiate’s fall after-school offering takes place on the rapids of the James River. Students spend their afternoons on different sections of the James River learning the basics of river safety, navigation and rescue. Using whitewater paddle boards, rafts, inflatable kayaks and whitewater kayaks, students hone their skills, progressing from flatwater paddling to the class III rapids that run directly through the heart of downtown. 

Colder temperatures bring Outdoor Collegiate indoors to a local climbing gym for our rock climbing season. Our most popular offering, the Indoor Climbing Program usually includes about 60 students who engage in fun and challenging climbing sessions four days a week. Led by a team of Collegiate faculty members and Outdoor Collegiate student leaders, students hone their climbing and bouldering skills while learning about best practices for climbing and belaying. 

Outdoor Collegiate’s newest offering is our Wilderness Skills, which is held in the woods of the Robins Campus. Students spend four days a week deep in the seclusion of the forest learning lifelong outdoor skills such as shelter building, primitive fire building, cooking, navigation, plant identification, animal tracking and trail building. This offering often includes an overnight experience using only the most basic of outdoor supplies and the shelter that students construct from what is available in the forest.

Warmer temperatures and budding trees bring Outdoor Collegiate back to the James River Park System. Students participating in this season will spend their afternoons exploring the trails of the JRPS as well as surrounding parks and wooded areas. Students gain a deeper understanding of all that the James River offers for Richmonders. Students also have the opportunity to mountain bike in the early spring and explore the river in the late spring.

Stephen P. Adamson '92, Jr. High and Low Ropes Course

Stephen’s love and appreciation of outdoor adventure was born at his home in Goochland County, cultivated through Collegiate and mastered during his years living throughout the Rocky Mountain West. A devoted husband and father, the Class of 1992 graduate enjoyed challenging himsel­f and others. To celebrate his memory and passion for outdoor activity, Stephen’s family, friends, and the Collegiate community dedicate this Ropes Course in his honor.

Ropes Course Impact and Curricular Integration

Outdoor Collegiate operates and maintains the Stephen P. Adamson ’92, Jr. Ropes Course on Collegiate’s Mooreland Campus. Built in 2018 by Challenge Towers Aerial Adventures, the course consists of six permanent low ropes/challenge activities, a high ropes course with 20 separate challenges, a 35 foot Swing and two 300 foot zip lines. Students often explore the ropes course in engaging ways during the school day, after school, during weekend events and in the summer during leadership camps.

Low Ropes / Challenge Course

Used frequently by classes in all three divisions of the School, the low ropes/challenge course offers teachers, students, coaches and athletes the opportunity to target specific outcomes through guided facilitation. Skills targeted include:
    • Group dynamics and communication
    • Learning through failure
    • Organization
    • Listening
    • Experimenting
    • Leadership

High Ropes / Zip Lines / Swing by Choice
Off the ground, the high ropes course is facilitated by specially trained operators and utilizes the industry-best safety features. Students will often use the ropes course during the school day to conduct physics experiments, biology observations and math formulations. After school, the course is used by Outdoor Collegiate’s after-school programs, sports teams and Cougar Quest. Our high ropes course is focused on individual growth through our philosophy of challenge-by-choice, which encourages students to push themselves outside of their comfort zone and into their learning zone in an environment that supports each individual.

Summer Programming
During Collegiate’s Summer Quest, Outdoor Collegiate offers week-long leadership development camps for Middle School-aged students, utilizing both the low ropes/challenge course as well as all elements of the high ropes course. Throughout the week, participants, guided by the trained professionals of the SPA Course as well as student leaders from the Upper School, will develop their skills through facilitated activities.