What is outdoor school?
Last updated 11/1/2022 at Noon
Outdoor School is a decades-old rite of passage for Oregon sixth-graders, including Sisters students. For many, it is a highlight of their school years.
The principles behind Outdoor School revolve around getting kids out into nature and fostering a sense of place. Camps feature direct educational opportunities, like science experiment stations, but also hiking, canoeing, archery, and other activities that are considered by many to be a core part of the Oregon experience.
Outdoor School also provides opportunities for team-building and developing a school culture.
Sisters Middle School Principal Tim Roth noted that Outdoor School often occurs in the spring, but he and his staff saw major advantages to starting the year off with the experience.
“They thought, ‘Let’s set the tone and the culture right off the bat and do it in October,’” he said.
Outdoor School also offers growth opportunities for high school-aged students, who are given the opportunity to act as camp counselors and student leaders with the younger students.
Charlie Anderson, executive director at Camp Tamarack, told The Nugget that “high school students get permission from teachers, parents, and school counselors in order to volunteer at Outdoor School. There is training each high school student participates in before working with 5th-/6th-grade students. Our high school leaders spend the week supervising a cabin of 5th-/6th-grade students, helping lead community-building and science activities, and fostering lifelong connections with other volunteers all under the mentorship of a Camp Tamarack staff member.”
Roth recognizes that Outdoor School is a big deal to parents and families.
“Some of the families, it might be the first time their kids left home without them,” he said.
Outdoor School is usually a three-day/two night event. Roth noted that students are not required to stay overnight if they or their parents are not comfortable.
“We can make it a day camp if they don’t want to stay overnight,” Roth said.
Roth, who has been principal at Sisters Middle School for the past four years, noted that the program has been handled differently in each of those four years, partly due to constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is evaluated each year.
Roth said the experience is one of fun and bonding for the students. He recounted his visit to last month’s event.
“I saw 100 percent of the kids standing in line with smiles on their faces, hooting and hollering,” he said. “I didn’t see any kids standing off to the side. They just looked like a bunch of kids having a blast at Outdoor School — and a bunch of counselors having a blast having them there.”