SASED names Outdoor Learning Day after longtime educator Rich Laren

Rich Laren, an exceptional special education teacher, has left an indelible mark on our community throughout his dedicated years at the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County in Lisle.

With a career defined by compassion and innovation, Laren has tirelessly championed the cause of special education students, enriching their lives in countless ways.

As SASED prepares for its 16th annual Outdoor Learning Day, it's impossible not to reflect on Laren's pivotal role in shaping this beloved event and his profound impact on the lives of students and staff alike.

The Outdoor Learning Day is set to take place on Friday, May 3, at St. James Farm in Warrenville. The annual tradition, initially co-founded by Rich Laren, a dedicated Transition Program teacher at SASED, and Jay Johnson from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, has blossomed into an extraordinary opportunity for special education students countywide to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature.

In recognition of Laren's unwavering commitment to students with special needs in DuPage County, the event, formerly known as Outdoor Education Day, has been renamed the “Rich Laren Day of Outdoor Learning.”

Laren and Ranger Jay share a long-standing friendship dating back to their teenage years in the late 1970s. Their shared passion for assisting individuals with special needs led them to collaborate on various programs, camps, and events. Although their professional paths diverged, they reunited in 2008 with a shared vision of providing hands-on nature experiences to students.

What initially began as a modest outing for 100 students to explore nature and enjoy fishing at Herrick Lake has since burgeoned into a grand affair at St. James Farm, attracting over 500 students and 200 staff.

Nestled within the sprawling 612-acre St. James Farm Forest Preserve, the event venue boasts diverse ecosystems comprising woodlands, prairies, and wetlands. Home to over 300 native plant species and wildlife, St. James Farm provides an idyllic backdrop for outdoor learning.

Under the vigilant supervision of SASED staff and forest rangers, students engage in a plethora of activities tailored to their specific needs, including fishing, archery, wheelchair-accessible hayrides, kayaking, and an array of nature-themed educational stations.

The event owes much of its success to the dedicated volunteers, including representatives from companies like Com Ed and Chamberlain Group, who help ensure the safety and enjoyment of every participant.

Over the years, Laren has forged enduring bonds with students, staff, and volunteers, creating a treasure trove of cherished memories. As we eagerly anticipate future Outdoor Learning Days, we extend our heartfelt wishes to Rich Laren and his family for many more years of happiness.

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