An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Bryan Smith, director of experiential education

Over the last several weeks, Lakeside’s experiential education program has closely monitored Washington state’s Safe Start plan for reopening; attended international risk management webinars to determine our ability to take students safely out into the field; and collaborated with other independent schools on best practices for outdoor trips in a very different world. In response to what we have learned, we are excited to announce the creation of a creative new program that will help Lakeside students and their families experience and learn in the outdoors this summer.

Earlier this spring, we made the tough decision to cancel spring and early-summer Outdoor Program trips. Those decisions, made in collaboration with Lakeside’s risk management team, were in line with public health guidelines. Since that time, we have been working with officials at Public Health – Seattle & King County and reviewing recommendations from the CDC and organizations including the American Camp Association, National Outdoor Leadership School, and Outward Bound with the goal of making a timely decision about late-summer Upper School outdoor trips. Based on the information we collected, we realized that we could not offer the planned late-summer outdoor trips because of the difficulty of social distancing groups of students during overnight backpacking trips.

Lakeside’s Outdoor Program is an integral part of a student’s experience in both the Middle and Upper schools. On their outdoor trips, students develop so many of the competencies and mindsets we believe are critical to education, including collaboration and leadership, sustainability, and unstructured problem solving. Trips also provide students with much-needed perspective. As one student remarked, “In our technology- and academia-filled lives, outdoor trips are a way to disconnect and think about our natural surroundings.” During a time when students are living and connecting through screens, time outdoors has become even more critical.

This summer, we are offering an alternative program that gives Lakeside families two options that enable students to continue their Lakeside education in the outdoors. These options draw on the strengths and goals of the Lakeside Outdoor Program and are adapted to be in alignment with Washington state’s Safe Start plans. To be eligible to participate, the student must have attended Lakeside in the 2019-2020 school year and be entering grades 6-12 in the coming academic year. We place a high priority on all families being able to participate in this program, regardless of their ability to pay. The cost of the staffing and rentals is included in tuition; for additional costs (including food and transportation) financial aid is available.

Option 1: Lakeside Experiential Consultation and Outfitting Program (LECOP)  

This summer, Lakeside families can take advantage of a consultation and outfitting service provided by the school. Experiential education staff can offer advice on places to camp and hike in the Pacific Northwest; lend maps, gear (including tents, sleeping bags, and boots), and other items families may need; and serve as an overall helpful resource. Consultation will be provided virtually (through videoconferencing, phone, and email) and gear can be picked up and returned on campus in a safe and socially distant process.

Option 2: Lakeside Family Outdoor Coaching (LFOC)

For families with limited experience in the backcountry, Lakeside is offering two trained outdoor educators as personal backpacking coaches and mentors. Two members of our team will accompany a student and their family on a three-day, two-night backpacking trip focused on teaching skills like outdoor cooking, route planning and navigation, and the ethics and logistics of Leave No Trace. Trip coaches will be able to social distance at campsites and have separate cook sets, tents, and other gear that will keep us in alignment with Washington state’s Safe Start plans. Families would be responsible for purchasing their own food for the trip, providing their own cook stove and fuel, and providing their own transportation to and from the designated trailhead. Financial aid is available to cover these additional costs. Prior to the trip, Outdoor Program staff will work with the family, providing expertise and advice, and creating possible menu options for families as they plan for grocery shopping and dietary needs. This is a trial program: we will offer four trips and then assess how the program is working.

Please review the FAQ below for more about the LECOP and LFOC options for summer 2020. Registration for both options begins on Friday, June 12. An email will be sent to families next week with additional information, a link to the sign-up page, and contact information for additional questions.

Again, we are excited and grateful to be able to offer options to enable families to get outside this summer and build a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the amazing natural places of the Pacific Northwest. We’ve been hearing for years that parents and guardians would love to go on a Lakeside Outdoor Trip — with social distancing encouraging us to think in new ways, we are thrilled to make this possible!

Bryan Smith is director of experiential education at Lakeside School. You can reach him at 206-440-2833 and

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many slots are available to work with an outdoor coach in the LFOC option?
A: We are starting with a small number of trips. To be in alignment with Washington’s Safe Start guidelines, participants are limited to a single household, currently living together, with every member of the family being healthy. One participant on the trip must be a Lakeside student who attended Lakeside in the 2019-2020 school year and will be entering grades 6-12.

Q: How much does it cost to participate in one of these programs?
A: Families will be responsible for purchasing their own food and providing their own transportation to and from the trailhead. There may be other costs for cooking equipment like a backpacking stove, which Lakeside cannot provide. Lakeside covers the cost of the outdoors coach and their needs. We place a high priority on all families being able to participate in this program, and financial aid is available.

Q: How physically fit should each participant be to go on a trip?
A: Families will be hiking in the backcountry on trails with uneven terrain and with altitude gain or loss. They should expect to carry their own equipment in packs weighing between 25-40 pounds; cook their own food; set up tents; and manage their own general health needs while in a backcountry setting.

Q: How does a family sign up for a trip?
A: The week of June 8, Lakeside Outdoor Programs Coordinator Greta Block will email additional information to eligible families about gear lending, experiential consultation, and the coach supported outdoor trip options.  If interested in a LFOC trip opportunity, families must sign up no later than Friday, June 19.

Q: What if I am interested in going out with my family on our own but we don’t know where to go or what to bring?
A: Through the LECOP option, Lakeside’s Outdoor Program is happy to assist in creating an itinerary, planning meals, providing gear, and consulting with you to create a memorable experience for your family. Our staff is knowledgeable on different areas of the state and can help you plan out a trip that meets your needs and can suggest routes that match your skill level.