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General Background
Outdoor Education Laboratory - A Nature Discovery Program - started its first year of operation in summer of 1976.  It was developed by teachers in the local Kansas City area, many of whom also had a hand in the Summer Enrichment program at Shawnee Mission South.  Those teachers became the first Directors and helped form the backbone of how the camp would operate for years to come.  Some of what they originally created has been lost through the sands of time while other aspects linger on.  Throughout the years, Campers have come and Campers have gone, Counselors have come and Counselors have gone, but Outdoor Education Laboratory has been going strong.

OEL serves mostly the Shawnee Mission School District, Blue Valley School District, Olathe School District, and other nearby surrounding areas in southern Kansas City and is open for Campers between the grades of kindergarten (must be 6 years old by June 1 for the summer enrolled) and sixth grade.

Today, OEL operates two campsites: Red Cedar and Sycamore Springs.  Red Cedar, located one mile west of 183rd and Metcalf, is one of the most scenic natural areas of Johnson County.  The sheltered valley includes mature woodlands surrounding a clear rock stream.  Sycamore Springs, located at 183rd and State Line, is a former Boy Scout Camp and is the site of the original OEL program.  The pond, stream, woodlands, and native prairie provide an ideal location for OEL.

A camp day starts at roughly 9:00AM and runs till around 3:30PM.  Campers are signed up on a weekly basis on a first-come availability.  Weeks usually fill quickly, so make sure to sign up before letting too much time pass.


The average group size at camp are seven students per instructor.  Campers are grouped with others their own age but are always allowed to be with their friends. They will be placed into groups while at camp.  Weekly activities are scheduled to take advantage of weather and wildlife conditions.  Campers will participate in 16 - 20 activities each week.  Activities vary depending on staff expertise and weather conditions.  All activities stress interaction in nature and human interaction with them.

On the first day, Campers will form their activity groups that they will participate with all week.  They will be assigned a Morning Counselor.  Each Camper will spend more time with their Morning Counselor and will check in with him or her each day.  Any group activities will also be done with this Morning Counselor.  The Camper groups will rotate through the staff and activities of that week to have a chance to work with each Counselor and learn that Counselor's activities.  For a partial list of the activities that we cover at camp, check out the Activities page.


What to wear?
Campers should be prepared for a day in the forest.  It is nature.  Campers will get very dirty and wet.  They should not wear a new outfit.  Campers should be dressed in long pants to protect their legs, comfortable boots or tennis shoes -- no sandals -- to protect their feet, and possibly a hat to protect their head.  If it looks like it is going to be a colder day or a rainy day, please make sure the Camper is properly dressed and that they have what they need for the day.  Camp does not stop due to less than perfect weather conditions.

We do not offer bug-spray so you may want to spray your child before they arrive out at camp.  If your child is sensitive to the sun, you should apply a layer of suntan lotion and include their lotion in their bag they take to camp.  Camp does not supply any suntan lotion.  If they have any problems re-applying the lotion, they can ask any counselor for assistance, but it is preferred they do it themselves.


Safety is one of our highest priorities.  We want each camper to feel safe and to be safe.  We also want our staff to feel and be safe.  One of the first things that we do on Monday morning when the campers first get to camp is to go over the camp rules.  Since there are usually around 80 or more people at a given campsite each week, we need to make sure that certain ground rules exist so that everyone can have a fun and enjoyable time learning about nature.  If any Camper is having problems with another Camper or needs some sort of first aid, they should talk to either their Morning Counselor, any other Counselor, or the Director for help.

Each camp site has at least one first aid kit, a cell phone, a landline phone, and an automobile.  Campers are only allowed to do certain aquatic activities with a certified lifeguard on duty.  The Counselors are trained in basic water safety.

During the hotter weeks, Campers are encouraged to drink lots of water as they will need it.  If your child complains of being tired, has a headache, or of an upset stomach, these could be signs of dehydration and they should drink more water.  During any week, Campers are allowed to carry water with them from activity to activity.  They will not be allowed to drink soda pop as in it does not help the body with dehydration.

If you would like to review the camp rules, you can do so by clicking here.

Who is in charge?
Each campsite is staffed by Counselors who are usually either in junior/senior status high school students or are in college, Staff Assistants members (commonly called Grubs) who are middle school students and freshman/sophomore status high school students, and overseen and run by a Director who is a certified teacher in the Greater Kansas City area.  If for any reason a Director must leave the campsite for emergency reasons, the campsite is left in temporary control to a Counselor above the age of 21.
Everything stays out at camp...
As the Campers go from activity to activity, they will have many opportunities to grab stuff in the forest.  They will see many beautiful things and may want to share them with their family.  They may see a flower and have the urge to pick it to take back to admire while eating their lunch.  We do not allow this.  Everything that is found at camp stays at camp (unless they have their Counselor's permission).  This is because if we allow every child to take what they will from camp, then there will be nothing left for future campers to see.  Campers come out to learn about nature and to respect it, not to destroy it.
Each year, OEL offers t-shirts for the Campers to purchase.  The shirts are made of high quality preshrunk cotton and will last for years to come.  The prices of the shirts are low and as OEL is a 501(c)(3) corporation, we are not making any profit off of them -- we only cover costs.  Your child will be told about the t-shirts while at camp and they will also be told the price.
Each week on Friday starting at 12:00 noon, OEL invites the parents out for a campfire cookout.  The cookout usually lasts one hour.  OEL provides the fire, Campers and their families provide the rest.  While out at camp, you and your child may take a hike through the forest, hold the animals, talk with the staff and other families, among other things.  All family members that go out to camp are expected to follow the camp rules.
Bus Stops
The camp has several bus stops which it uses as pick-up and drop-off points for certain areas.  Each bus stop is managed by one of our Counselor staff members.  They usually arrive ten minutes before the time indicated to leave in the morning and will stay at the bus stop in the afternoon until all Campers are picked up and accounting for.  On the first day, your child will be required to give the Counselor in charge their confirmation form which will be e-mailed or mailed to you upon receipt of your payment.  Your child is expected to get on and off at the same bus stop each day.  If certain arrangements must be made, they need to be in writing to the Counselor as soon as you know of the change.

Swimming Pool
The Red Cedar campsite is currently the only campsite to feature a working pool.  An American Red Cross certified lifeguard or other equally trained certified lifeguard is on duty at all times during any pool related activity.  The pool ranges from 3 feet in the shallow end to 5 feet in the deep end.  Since it is so shallow, there is no diving, no 'belly flops', and no flips.  Campers also must be wearing proper swimming attire.  Regular camp clothes will not be allowed.  The lifeguard on duty may require the Camper to have a towel if the weather is cold.  Also, the lifeguard may decide to close the pool for safety reasons if there is a storm or if it is too cold.  The Campers will go over more aspects of the pool out at camp.

For a list of the posted Pool Rules, click here.

Inclement Weather
Outdoor Education Laboratory does not cancel camp due to inclement weather.  During light rain, camp continues normally so campers should come prepared.  During severe weather, campers will be protected appropriately and camp will continue in an adapted fashio
n.  On hot days, campers are encouraged to carry water as they can do normally everyday.
If you find that you will be unable to attend a session enrolled, use the online Request Withdraw option.  Using your Enrollment Account, use the View Registration option, then Request Withdraw for each week desired.  To receive a refund of any payments, you need to request the withdraw no later than two weeks before the start of the session.  Even though our program is popular, we cannot find replacements on short notice since many people on the waitlist make alternative plans.  Eligible refunds will be done by our director responsible for financial aspects and usually happen within a two week time window from the request.



Red Cedar Forest - Located one mile west of 183rd and Metcalf, Red Cedar Forest is one of the most scenic natural areas of Johnson County. The sheltered valley includes mature woodlands surrounding a clear rock stream. The Outdoor Education Laboratory has operated summer programs at this site since 1989.


Sycamore Springs - Located at 183rd and State Line Road, this former Boy Scout Camp is the site of the original Outdoor Education Laboratory Program. The pond, stream, woodlands, and native prairie provide an ideal location for our programs.

Bus Stop Information


Bus Stop Information

Shawnee Mission South High School
107th and Lamar
Overland Park, KS 66207
Departs 8:20am - Returns 4:15pm


Regency Place Elementary
13252 Greenwood
Olathe, KS 66062
Departs 8:40am - Returns 3:55pm


Blue Valley Baptist Church
8925 W 151st Street
Overland Park, KS 66221
Departs 8:55am - Returns 3:40pm


No Bus - Camp
Drop off 9:05am - Pick up 3:30pm


Shawnee Mission East High School
7500 Mission Road
Prairie Village, KS 66208
Departs 8:15am - Returns 4:15pm


First Church of the Nazarene
11811 State Line Road
Kansas City, MO 64114
Departs 8:35am - Returns 4:00pm


Christ Community Church
14200 Kenneth Rd
Leawood, KS 66224
Departs 8:55am - Returns 3:40pm


No Bus - Camp
Drop off 9:05am - Pick up 3:30pm


More Information

Activity Set A   Activity Set B   Activity Set C   Activity Set D



Animal Babies


Animal Defenses


Bird Identification

Dead Tree Ecology




Animal Locomotion









Creek Ecology



General Plants




Dangerous Animals





Environmental Impact





Insect Cages




Flower Identification

Leaf Prints


Map and Compass


Nature Sounds



Microscopic Life


Paint with Nature





Natural Communities


Predator - Food Chain


Spiders and Webs



Scavenger Hunt


Reptile Search









Tree Books



Snakes Alive


Tree Game








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