An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Lauren R. '21

This past spring break, I fulfilled my Outdoor Education graduation requirement. Yay me! Rafting on the Deschutes was a fantastic experience, despite the constant rain and wet sleeping bags. In the days leading up to the trip, I noticed that outdoor education is something that isn’t discussed a lot at Lakeside: everyone knows what outdoor education is, and everyone goes on an outdoor trip, but reflection on the trips isn’t as talked about as much as, say, GSL or community service.

I didn’t really expect much from my trip—certainly not the emphasis on both teamwork and self-sufficiency during nightly reflection meetings, or the laughter after two of my trip mates spent their lunch money on what they thought was a whole, ready-to-eat pizza (It was from Papa Murphy’s. Join the take-n-bake revolution!). A lot of Lakesiders, myself included, initially see outdoor trips as an extended camping trip and don’t understand the point of going on them. This sentiment was shared by my trip mate and frequent tent partner, Alena K. ’21, who said: “Before I went on an outdoor trip, I was definitely like, ‘Why should we do this, this doesn’t sound like it would help me in any way.’” The lessons you learn on outdoor trips are unusual in that someone’s perception of those lessons will radically change once they’ve been on the trip. Before my own, I didn’t know what the trips were meant to do for me or why they mattered. After my trip, as clichéd as it sounds, it was like my eyes were open.

It wasn’t until the latter days of my trip that I realized I was being played. The trip had tricked me into learning something and having a meaningful experience. Despite not being initially aware of them, I’m incredibly grateful for the lessons I was taught on the river. So many of the skills you learn on outdoor experiences apply to life. Learning how to work well with a team was a particular emphasis, made more impactful by the fact that our trip specifically required working together to guide the raft. While teamwork was essential, so was independence. Each of us was responsible for managing our belongings. When I almost lost my water bottle in a WinCo, the leaders said, “Better go look for it, then.” Each of us had to pack our bag, take care of our dishes, and keep ourselves warm.

On outdoor trips, everyone is stripped down to their most basic self. Without showers or mirrors, we all must be okay with the fact that people are going to see us look a little rough. Outdoor trips are equalizing, forcing each member of the team to step outside their comfort zone. “It’s very humbling,” said Alena. “I really like that.”

More than the life lessons outdoor education teaches us, the excursions are also a lovely way to take in natural scenery that we might not otherwise see. America’s native lands aren’t a guaranteed thing. Even on my river trip, we could see how wildfires had torched the land just the past summer. In our technology- and academia-filled lives, outdoor trips are a way to disconnect and think about our natural surroundings. Learning to appreciate nature, above all, is what makes outdoor education so valuable as a Lakeside tradition.