Nerves were on edge as 97 sixth graders from Daybreak Middle School embarked on a weeklong adventure in the woods at Cispus Learning Center in Randle, WA. For the next four days and three nights, the forest–more than a hundred miles from the comfortable confines of their usual classroom and routines–would be their home and their school.
Cispus Learning Center’s 68-acre campus provides an outdoor learning environment and overnight camp facilities that engage students in leadership and teambuilding activities, hands-on science instruction and character building. The students from Daybreak were accompanied by 26 student counselors from Battle Ground High School and a team of adult staff.
By the end of the week, even the shyest and most nervous of students had managed to cast aside their fears and take full advantage of the opportunity, bonding with classmates through teambuilding activities and honing science skills through hands-on field studies.
“In just a few days of Outdoor School you see a transformation occur in students,” said Andrew Ledbury, Outdoor School counselor and a senior at Battle Ground High School. “I had students tell me at the beginning of the week that they didn't want to be at Outdoor School and were only there because their parents made them. By the end of the week, they were all smiles, and several kids told me it was one of the best weeks they’ve ever had. Being a part of something that can help build confidence in younger students was a rewarding experience.”
“Outdoor school impacts the lives of sixth graders by teaching them how to stay positive, how to persevere, and to try things maybe they are afraid to try or have never tried before,” added counselor and BGHS student Danielle Morgan.
Sixth graders at Daybreak also provided glowing reviews of their experience:
“All sixth graders should attend outdoor school because it is a more hands-on way of learning," said Maddie Kohout. "Instead of trying to learn about science and nature from a textbook, you can learn outdoors and go to actual streams and rivers to collect samples and test soil taken from the forest.”
“You simply can’t get the same experience when you’re cooped up in a small classroom all the time," said Payton Bodkin. “Outdoor school made me love science, and I know it will help others do the same.”
“Outdoor School was one of the most team-building, friendship-creating, and definitely one of the most positive experiences I have ever had,” said Brielle Bowman.
While this was the first year that Daybreak Middle School had a week of Outdoor School, the plan is for this to be the inaugural launch of an annual tradition. The program is paid for through a combination of fund-raising efforts, school funds, and family contributions.
“In the future, students can look back on the memories they made while at Outdoor School and think fondly of them," said Craig Pearson, the Daybreak teacher who leads the program. "But more importantly, students will be able to apply how they grew as an individual during this experience to many different aspects of their lives.”