Philosophy and Program Overview
The Fall Outdoor Education Program at Explorer West is the key to a smooth transition into the beginning of a new school year. All students participate in 3-day overnight camping & backpacking trips in various locations throughout Washington. This is scheduled during their second full week back at school, so students are all made keenly aware or reminded of the importance of community responsibility, sustainable life choices, and resilience when it comes to both the outdoors and academic success. Though it is shorter than the spring trips, this program sets the tone for the school year by allowing the students to bond with their peers and teachers alike and establishes a connection between sustainability in both the classroom and the real world. Most students are either slowly introduced to basic camping skills or expected to expand upon their experiences from the past and become more capable of leadership and critical thinking.
Fall Program – main program elements by grade
Travel via the WA State ferry system to Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, WA to set up camp in camping groups around the park. Take part in marine biology classes provided by Port Townsend Marine Science Center & having students involved in a community service project facilitated by park staff. Additional opportunities include exploring low tide pools and the remaining military bunkers from the historical fort.
Trek up to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Central Cascades to explore the glacial lakes left behind after the last ice age & a wilderness legacy left for those to enjoy in the mountains. Utilizing backcountry campsites near Snow Lake, Dorothy Lake, Mason Lake, Cooper Lake each group of students set up base camps and become more independent campers/hikers.
Each group sees the effects of Civilian Conservation Corp-era projects and how wilderness areas can be enjoyed responsibly by large groups.
A challenging visit to backcountry campsites in Mount Rainier National Park at beautiful sites along the famous Wonderland Trail. The transition of leadership and responsibility for running the day-to-day of the trip into the hands of the students begins here. This incredibly bonding and memorable experience begins them thinking about their passage from childhood to adulthood, their coexisting independence and interdependence, and personal connection to the wilderness.
Over three years at Explorer West, students attending the fall program will:
- Become familiar with “camp-craft," the art of working within a group to establish a safe, low-impact campsite that all can enjoy and leave it in better shape than before they came
- Understand that the character strengths of grit, creativity, citizenship, and appreciation of beauty will serve them well in succeeding both outdoors and in academics
- Be expected to understand the art of mythology and its place in culture and society and create their own myth and how it links to the environment of the Pacific Northwest.
- Learn how to skillfully and efficiently pack camping essentials in a multi-day backpack and carry a full load for several miles for the first time!
- Model leadership and cooperation
- Reflect on and self-examine after each experience
- Observe up close a glacier in Mount Rainier National Park and discuss the observable effects of glaciation on the land and how receding glaciers affect all ecosystems