For more than 30 years, Lakeside School’s Outdoor Program has given thousands of students the chance to experience the wonders of nature and the thrill of adventure and has gradually evolved into a self-sustaining curriculum with its own graduation requirements. Run by experienced educators and outdoor experts, Chip Mehring and his team, the program emphasizes experiential learning and inspires self-discovery.
Middle and Upper School students participate this experiential learning program that involves learning by doing, thereby teaching students to learn from their experiences, not just about their experiences. A primary focus of the program is to introduce students to their own backcountry, while keeping travel time and expense to a minimum.
Through outdoor education, students learn to step out of their comfort zone and gain more self-confidence. Participants build meaningful relationships more easily than they can in a traditional classroom setting, and the adventure of the outdoors helps to form powerful bonds. In outdoor education, we help students make connections between the classroom and the real world.
The students get introduced to new skills which can be applied toward lifelong pursuits. They gain a better awareness of their surroundings, of each other and themselves, and they learn to live more consciously. Participants develop the skills to re-create their experience with other groups. They learn to stop and reflect on the learning process, become competent at translating experiential learning into generic terms, and figure out how to apply that process to other situations.
During their outdoor trips, the students become an expedition team. When they return having experienced the wilderness and its power to transform lives, they become good stewards of the environment and help to protect it for future generations. Students also experience the benefit of living simply and, hopefully, adopt the attitude of conservation.
Educators in the Outdoor Program strive to help students realize their potential for learning and growth, exhibiting the same enthusiasm and belief in the value of the learning experience that they hope to see in students. The reward for these educators comes from witnessing the transformation in students as they become more aware, compassionate, and well-rounded. For many participants, the most noteworthy discoveries during the program are that relative strangers can function well as a group and enjoy each other’s company, and the newfound pride and confidence that comes from doing something that is longer, harder, and more challenging than anything they had done before.
Prior to every trip, students work together to learn the essentials of food planning and packing. Students learn the skills necessary to function in the outdoors, how to lead a healthful life, and the benefit of living simply. Every program includes time for self-reflection. Students participate in guided Program reflection on what they have done, what it means, and how they will use it after the course.
The Upper School program starts with a meeting for students, parents, and guardians at which the trip leaders introduce the trips, outline expectations, show photos, review the equipment list, and answer questions. As preparation for the overnight trips, Middle School students learn to set up tents, plan meals for a big group, and brainstorm ways to include everyone in group activities.
Middle School teachers from all grades take their classes outside for sessions of problem solving and cooperative games with the goal of developing intellectually capable students with creative minds and healthy bodies.