Experiential learning – learning through doing – is at the heart of the Middle School Outdoor Program. When paired with reflection, skills that are developed and practiced in the outdoors – such as teamwork, problem-solving, and taking physical, emotional, and social risks – can enrich students’ everyday lives.
A major goal of the Outdoor Program is to give students a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Pacific Northwest. With trips spread around Washington state, students gain firsthand knowledge of our state’s geography, ecology, and natural beauty. Group bonding activities and discussions are paired with quiet reflection and journaling. Trips pose an opportunity for students to demonstrate independence and self-reliance; for some students, it may be a first time away from home on their own, or first time sleeping outside.
Students in grades 5 through 7 participate in grade-level outdoor trips every spring, with the length of the trips increasing over time. Trips are led by Lakeside faculty and staff, along with experienced outdoor educators. The trips play an important role in the school’s educational program, and participation is required. Our Middle School outdoor program coordinator works with families to ensure that all students are able to take part in the program.
From the top of Mount Baker to the gullies of the Grand Canyon, Lakeside students expand their understanding of who they are and what they can accomplish. Through outdoor education, students learn new skills, gain self-confidence, reflect on their responsibility to the natural world, and build meaningful relationships in a way rarely possible in a traditional classroom setting.
Students bring diverse experiences and skills to their trip – whether they are first-timers or experienced outdoorspeople. They are tasked with real responsibilities that carry immediate consequences, such as practicing leave-no-trace, preparing meals for everyone on the trip, and deciding who should carry what gear. Guided by experienced trip leaders, students work cooperatively with their peers in a challenging setting to make decisions that impact the entire group.
Upper School students have a wide range of trips from which to choose, including backpacking, cross-country skiing, whitewater rafting, canoeing, sea kayaking, and mountaineering. The majority of trips take place within driving distance of Seattle, providing students with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Pacific Northwest. Lakeside also sends students to notable locations in the West, including the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and Grand Gulch and the Green River in Utah. Groups of 10 students are led by Lakeside faculty and experienced outdoor educators, and typically include students from multiple grades. Students often remark that they made new friends on the trip whom they otherwise might not have met.
Trips typically take place during school vacations and last one week or longer. All Upper School students must complete an outdoor trip to graduate. The cost of most trips is included in tuition; trips that involve flight and hotels do involve additional costs. Financial aid is available. For more information about the Upper School Outdoor Program – including trip options – check out the curriculum guide.