Spring Program

6th graders camp on Orcas Island

Philosophy and Overview

The Spring Outdoor Education program at Explorer West is a culminating event for the entire school community and an integrated part of the curriculum and culture. This 4-day, overnight set of trips to various regions of the state punctuates the middle school experience at Explorer West in a way that makes lifelong memories and social connections. The program expands upon the student’s previous experiences and challenges them to more deeply connect with wild places, fill greater leadership roles than before, and give back to the outdoor community in the form of service projects. These programs are enriched by a commitment to sustainable pack-in/pack-out practices and partnerships with Leave No Trace, Washington State Parks, and Washington Trails Association.

Spring gear lists available to download:

Skills Overview:

During the spring programs students will be expected to:

  • Understand the importance and apply the philosophy of Leave No Trace camping and backpacking
  • Become familiar with and independently use a variety of camping gear, from backpacks to stoves to GPS devices
  • Understand the basics to map and compass navigation
  • Take part in a volunteer service project that puts them in the role of stewards of the public lands they use
  • Fill a variety of roles within their group from team leader to chef to medic, and reflect on how those roles fit their strengths and weaknesses

Spring Program – main program elements by grade

Examples of topics and locations students explore during their spring OE trips
6th grade 7th grade8th grade
Travel via the WA State ferry system to Moran State Park on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands to set up camp in camping groups around the park. Expand upon their fall experience by building burgeoning basic outdoor camping skills and continuing a tradition of having students involved in a community service project facilitated by park staff. Opportunities include hiking to the summit of Mt. Constitution, up-close observation of alpine lake ecology, large group games, and creative activities.Cross over the Cascade Crest to the descending steppes and canyons of the Eastern Cascades where the ecology is drier and the flora and fauna is very different from Western Washington. Utilizing semi-remote access points to Department of Natural Resources land in the Umtanum, Robinson, and Hardy Canyon areas - the students set up base camps a short hike from their vehicles and become more independent campers/hikers. 7th graders learn about the effects that water, time, and erosion have on drier climates like those in Eastern Washington.A challenging 20+ mile thru-hike of a section of the rugged, remote coastline in Olympic National Park. Leadership and responsibility lies fully in the hands of the now-experienced students who do all of their own cooking, cleaning, navigating, water resourcing, planning, and tide table interpretation. This incredibly powerful experience for our students focuses on the passage from childhood to adulthood, their coexisting independence and interdependence, and personal connection to the wilderness.