Outdoor School – 4/10/23

Happy Monday! One month ago I picked Luke up from Outdoor School and he is still talking about it daily. Outdoor School is such a unique part of our school system that I thought I’d share it with you.

It has been around for over fifty years! All sixth graders in our county go, with the exception of the covid years. There are permanent teachers at Outdoor School, but the sixth grade teachers go with their students, and there are 8-10 high school counselors each week. Outdoor School is a one week sleep away program that is part of the science curriculum.

My mom moved to our county in 8th grade so she didn’t get to go as a camper, but she went her senior year as a counselor. I went in sixth grade and loved it so much, I went back as a counselor my senior year.

When I showed Luke that picture, he said the bunks are more of a polished wood now, but he recognized the bunk room. That’s me in the front on the left in my James Madison sweatshirt.

If you ask anyone who went to Outdoor School what they remember, I guarantee the first thing they’ll mention is the survival game. At the end of the week, everyone is assigned an animal and you use everything you learned about the food chain, survival, and conservation to survive. I don’t remember what animal I was but I do remember that I survived. Luke was a mouse and he was still alive at the end of the game, which is pretty amazing!

Unfortunately, Jack was in sixth grade while we were hybrid and virtual so he didn’t get to go to Outdoor School. They had the experience virtually (boo, but the teachers did their best). I decided to take Jack and a friend to the grounds of Outdoor School during his week. We hiked, visited the raptors, did some of the things they’d learned about, and saw some of the historic buildings on the grounds.

This year was back to normal though! The kids go to school on Monday with all their things for the week. Then they hop on a bus and head off to a great week!

They have a bunch of responsibilities throughout the week. They have kitchen patrol to help get the tables ready for each meal. The food is served family style. Oh, and the food is GOOD!! Luke loved it!! They also have to clear the tables at the end and weigh all the food waste. The goal is to have zero waste meals. They have to straighten and clean the cabins each morning. They also do things to take care of the environment throughout each day.

The daily schedule starts with breakfast and then an instructional period that is usually outside. They come back in for lunch and then back outside for another instructional period. The instructional periods are usually hikes and exploring the grounds to learn more about our environment. Then they have showers and free time before dinner. After dinner is a journal time to record what they’ve learned that day. Then there is an evening program with the raptors (owls, eagles, hawks, etc.) or another hike. They have a snack a little after 9 pm and lights out is 10 pm.

There is a cooperation ropes course for the kids to complete together.

They explore a wetland and get filthy!

When I went, your parents could write you letters but they had no contact with you for the week. Now, we still send letters but the school shared pictures on twitter so you can catch a glimpse of your 6th grader.

The kids get back just after lunch on Friday and its’ so great to see them when they come off the bus! I was warned that kids are exhausted and that was the truth!! Luke was exhausted, but he had the absolutely best time!!

Luke had quite a few friends that were going after him so he made a list of tips for making the most of Outdoor School.

The high school counselors the week Luke went were from the other end of the county, but we knew one of the counselors. It was so fun for Luke to be there with Dory! He loved it!

Luke took some pictures while he was there, but he didn’t use the whole disposable camera yet. We should probably develop them soon! I hope you enjoyed this little peek into Outdoor School! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments. Have a great day full of sunshine and books!

6 thoughts on “Outdoor School – 4/10/23

  1. jgalvinwhite says:

    What an amazing experience. I wish our kids got to do something like this. Are there students who opt not to go?
    Luke’s tips are awesome. #9 cracked me up 😆relatable!

  2. Lauren says:

    Oh my gosh, this is seriously the COOLEST thing!! The middle schoolers at my kids’ school get to go to Camp Thunderbird (a sleep-away camp) for a week here and it sounds like a very similar experience. The kids sleep in the cabins, eat in the “mess hall” and spend their days learning about nature and doing science activities. I wish they did a family camp!

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