Training teachers in traditional and outdoor education

At the High Mountain Institute, we believe deeply in the philosophy of education through experience. Apprentices are college graduates who immerse themselves in a hands-on semester-long apprenticeship with the HMI Semester (our semester school for high school students) in addition to participating in a rigorous seminar that combines formal lessons in educational techniques with philosophies of outdoor education.

Apprentices participate as both students and teachers in the wilderness, academic, and residential components of the HMI Semester. Guidance on career planning is available throughout the semester, and graduates of this program are well prepared for employment in outdoor or experiential education, boarding and traditional high schools, adventure recreation, and residential programs. Graduates are also in an excellent position to pursue an advanced degree in education. For a list of careers pursued by former apprentices, click here. Additionally, the Apprentice Program has a partnership with Western State Colorado University, allowing us to offer graduate credit to apprentices.


Apprentices participate in a one-week wilderness training expedition and help to facilitate the three HMI Semester wilderness expeditions. These expeditions consist of backpacking, canyoneering, and backcountry skiing (Spring Semester only), as well as formal academic and wilderness classes. The wilderness curriculum includes leadership and communication development, basic camping skills, navigation, risk management, and decision-making.


Apprentices work closely with an academic faculty member to hone their teaching style and skills. The specific subject areas which are available for apprenticeships are:

  • Literature of the Natural World
  • U.S. History
  • Natural Science
  • Spanish
  • Mathematics
  • Wilderness (the Wilderness Apprentice works with the Dean of Students to teach our mandatory elective, Practices and Principles: Ethics of the Natural World and as well as assists the Director of Wilderness Programs in route planning and gear organization)
  • Communications (the Communications Apprentice works closely with the Admissions and Advancement team; there is no teaching component to this position)

For a full list of course descriptions click here.  Additionally, apprentices are enrolled in a bi-weekly Apprentice Seminar: Theory and Practice in Experiential Education. The curriculum includes classroom reflection and lesson planning, career development and planning, and identity and equity work within the classroom.

Residential Life

Outside of the classroom, apprentices play an active role in the residential life of the HMI Semester by cooking meals with students, helping with daily chores, participating in weekend outings, facilitating daily activities, and acting as a Cabin Head for a student cabin.

For a more in-depth look at the program, please read the Apprentice Program Semester Overview.