Outdoor Education

Awakening Natural Relationship through Camping and Exploration

Closeness with nature begins early at Oak Grove School. The wooded campus is bordered by acres of oak groves and wetlands, and the curriculum and daily schedule provide for large blocks of outdoor activity. On a given day, Preschool and Kindergarten children explore fields in search of seasonal insects and flowers, elementary classes tend herbs and vegetables, Middle School students sketch in a rose garden, and High School sophomores spend biology class in a grove observing the web of life through energy exchange. A familiarity with and comfort in nature is emphasized across the school, and nowhere is this better manifested than in the camping program. Through a graduated sequence of trips, students build their confidence, self-sufficiency, awareness, and appreciation of beauty. Most importantly, they develop self-knowledge through a relationship with nature and each other.

For our parents, these trips offer an opportunity to practice trusting other adults to care for our children away from home. 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.

Early Childhood Outdoor Education

Early Childhood

Early childhood students experience overnight campouts with teachers, parents and caregivers on campus. Kindergarten students and their families camp on our athletic field. Together, they enjoy bonfire stories, sing-alongs, and roasted marshmallows in the darkness. This practice of spending the night at “school,” is where our students begin to develop camping skills (pitching a tent, sleeping outside, fire safety) while in a familiar and safe place with their family. In 1st and second, the camp-out moves away to Carpinteria State Beach, first with parents, then the following year, without parents. The students practice being with teachers and peers away from home, but geographically close.

Elementary School

In elementary school, students further their independence and peer relationships with overnight camping in local campgrounds. Over several weeks in spring, students in 3rd through 5th grade will travel progressively further away on increasingly more challenging trips. In upper elementary, the focus moves to places further away with more physically challenging activities: group bike rides, longer hikes, and bouldering. Then they are off to our local forests carrying their own packs, swimming in water holes, and out of cell phone range. Learning how to be safe and comfortable in wild spaces are important skills to grasp at a young age. These immersive outdoor trips enhance learning through direct experiences.

Middle School Teton Science Schools Wyoming

Middle School

In middle school, students begin the year with teachers and peers, camping for several days in northern beach campgrounds. In Spring, sixth graders venture further to central California, camping for a week exploring mountain trails and tide pools. Our 7th and 8th graders travel by plane to other states to sleep in teepees, to river raft, and to study forest and glacier science by attending programs in Washington State (Nature Bridge), Wyoming (Teton Science School), or Utah (Canyonlands Field Institute), and others. While there, they engage in active, meaningful, transformative, hands-on, outdoor curriculum that integrates science, history, literature, and art.

High School

Fall Camping Trip

The entire high school kicks the year off together with one week of beach camping with their teachers north of Santa Barbara. Students share tents, meals, and engage in fun activities. For new students this provides an opportunity to build on the many ice-breaking activities that students participate in together throughout the beginning of the year.

Spring Trips

Along with experienced staff, High School Freshman and Sophomores backpack local mountains in the Los Padres National Forest and Sespe Wilderness. Dropped at a trail-head Monday morning, they traverse beautiful mountain ranges and running creeks in rigorous day-hikes of ten miles or more. Students vary in experience and work together to meet each days goal of hiking, setting up camp for the night, and preparing meals.

Our juniors embark on 10-day expedition through the southwest—river rafting the Kern River near Sequoia National Forest, trekking through Death Valley, hiking up a portion of the Mt. Whitney Trail and traversing up to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.

Senior Trip to India

The annual senior trip to India in January is three weeks of travel and cultural exchange including visiting Krishnamurti sister schools where seniors dance, play music and sports, and spend time in the classroom with fellow students. In the spring we celebrate India Night, where each student and school faculty chaperone give a presentation in the High School Student Center. India Night is attended by friends and families, and includes delicious homemade Indian food. This is an opportunity for students to reflect on, and share, what is commonly a transformative and bonding experience.