From the Head of School

 

On Friday our Junior High and High School students returned from the annual Secondary School camping trip to El Capitán State Beach. Over several days, they surfed and kayaked in the ocean, participated in fireside talent shows, storytelling, and sing-alongs. As I shared here last year when our Seniors returned from India, Oak Grove trips offer our students opportunities to grow and learn in ways not possible in a classroom.

Beginning in Kindergarten, immersive trips enhance learning through direct hands-on experiences that are central to the Oak Grove experience. Kindergarten students practice spending the night at “school,” but still as a family and on the school campus, somewhere familiar and safe. Then in early Elementary, the camp-out moves away to Carpinteria, first with parents, then the following year, without parents. The students practice being with teachers and peers away from home, but geographically close. In Upper Elementary, the focus is on going to places further away with more physically challenging activities: group bike rides, longer hikes, and bouldering. Then they are off to our local forest carrying their own packs, swimming in water holes, and out of cell phone range. In Junior High, students travel by plane to other states to sleep in teepees, to river raft, and study glacier science. By High School, the students are ready to take 6-10 day treks through the forest and Southwest without contacting parents.

Each trip offers new opportunities for the student to engage with nature, learn to pack only the essentials to keep the pack light, respect the natural environment, stay on the trail, pack in and pack out what they bring, stretch beyond their comfort zone and practice survival skills. The trips are increasingly challenging physically and require a deepening psychological preparedness.

These trips, however, are not just for our students. These trips are also for parents.

From the moment of birth our children begin growing away from us. Each moment brings new opportunities for children to gain confidence in their ability to be separate, for parents to trust that the child is capable of separating, and for both to trust that this separation is natural and safe. These trips allow the child and parent an ever-increasing practice in separating.

There are things that cannot be learned conceptually—digging a hole in the wilderness to go to the bathroom, overcoming a fear of water or heights, pushing ourselves physically beyond what our mind believes is possible (just one more step), and, perhaps the most difficult of them all, letting a child grow away from us.