The Essential Link Between the Parents and Our Staff
Students, naturalists and seasoned educators agree, teacher participation is intimately related to student success at San Mateo Outdoor Education. During a week at Outdoor Education, teachers are an integral part of the program's operation and function. The outdoor education staff is excited and prepared to lead outdoor lessons and campfire programs and manage student discipline. Because teachers know the students best, we look to their support, advice, and guidance in our efforts to build relationships with outdoor education attendees. Teachers' endorsement of and participation in activities motivates students and legitimizes their involvement. Creating such shared experiences in natural places prepares instructors to integrate the outdoor education week into classroom-based, follow-up lessons.
Throughout the week, teachers have specific responsibilities including office duty, cabin checks, and "teacher time" with their students. Teachers are also encouraged to accompany their students to outdoor education activities. On the last day of the week, teachers will have the opportunity to meet with the Site Director to evaluate the program.
An outline of the weekly schedule, including teacher responsibilities, follows:
When schools arrive at Outdoor Education, a naturalist greets the bus and organizes the students to unload the luggage. While the students take a brief orientation hike, the teachers will hand over collected student medication to our Healthcare Specialist.
Next, teachers meet with the Site Director in order to review student cabin lists. During this time, instructors make changes to student cabin assignments (accounting for absent and new students), evaluate combinations of students, note which groups may be most difficult to manage, ensure that homesick students are accompanied by supportive friends, and pair non-English speaking students with cabin mates capable of translation. Additionally, teachers deliver hand carried health forms and cabin leader paperwork to the Site Director. After site handbooks are distributed, teachers' quarters will be determined, and teachers will join the students for lunch in the picnic area.
Students are divided into 12 to 13 trail groups. Teachers are invited and encouraged to attend daily instructional trails. Trail schedules are posted daily in the main office. To share time with a variety of students, teachers can rotate through several trails. Please note that our naturalists welcome and appreciate feedback regarding their lessons.
It's Teacher Time!
Teachers are responsible for three daily one hour teacher time sessions during the week at Outdoor Education. Immediately following afternoon trail on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, classes meet in the dining hall. From 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., teachers organize activities for students to assess their progress and contentment.
Teacher time does require some advance planning. The options are many and are listed below. Teachers are asked to arrive with any necessary supplies such as pencils, crafting materials, athletic equipment, board games, etc.
- Ask your students to make an entry or do an activity in their outdoor education journals.
- Play outdoors on the ballfield or basketball court.
- Organize board games in the arboretum or bandshell.
- Lead a sharing circle.
- Tell stories or sing songs.
- Make trash art by collecting trash from around the cabins or common areas.
- Do art and craft projects.
- Host a game show quiz on what they have learned.
- Hold a nature scavenger hunt.
- Write articles for a class newsletter.
- Write letters to a state/federal official, congressional representative, etc. about issues of importance to the class.
- Record nature sounds. Be sure to bring a tape recorder.
- Go on a photographic or sketching safari.
- Cover any pre- or post- outdoor education activities that you have not yet done with your class.
Spaces Available for Teacher Time Activities
- Dining hall: A large indoor room with cafeteria tables that seats up to 200 people.
- Dining hall porch: A covered porch large enough for one class.
- Arboretum/Simcock: A building with chairs, A.V. equipment, fireplace, and a piano.
- Grassy ballfield: A playing field with a backstop and a field with goals.
- Picnic tables: 14 wooden tables located under the redwoods.
- Large campfire: A big stage with benches that seats up to 200 people.
- Small campfire: A smaller stage with logs that seats up to 150 people.
Mealtime in the Dining Hall
Teachers are responsible for providing student supervision in the dining hall during mealtimes. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are ideal times to monitor student behavior and enjoy stories about students' daily experiences.
Teachers' presence is welcome and encouraged at any and all evening activities. Night hike support, Earth Dance and Ocean Odyssey participation, and Campfire performances by teachers enhance the success of those activities and provide shared experiences for instructors and students.
One of the most important teacher responsibilities at Outdoor Education is to monitor students' cabins each night during bedtime preparation. Teachers are encouraged to wish students a good night and assist cabin leaders with the pre-sleep routine. Cabin lights are turned down beginning at 9:15 p.m., and the site should be quiet by 9:30 p.m. Teachers also distribute awards to the cabins that are quiet after 9:30 p.m.
After Hours Support
Although an outdoor education staff member is on-call each night, students and cabin leaders are instructed to report to teachers of any emergencies that arise during the night. In the event of a serious issue, please radio or phone the on-duty staff member immediately.
Each teacher has an assigned office duty period. During the week, responsibilities may include caring for sick students, processing referrals, taking messages, and laundering wet sleeping bags. If you need assistance, an outdoor education staff member will be present or available via the radio.
The Site Director leads a closing meeting on the last day of program to collect teacher comments and feedback. Your verbal and written evaluations are required which helps keep the program dynamic, relevant, and responsive to student needs.
To ensure students have the best possible week, it is crucial to establish effective communication between teachers, naturalists, and cabin leaders. Please forward any information about your students' health, behavior, and happiness to the Senior Naturalist and Site Director.
Discipline at Outdoor Education
During the week at Outdoor Education, teachers are part of a three-pronged disciplinary team. On trail, the Naturalist is responsible for the discipline and behavior of the trail group. Teachers maintain classroom authority and responsibility for their classes and students. Additionally, cabin leaders manage behavior during cabin and bedtime. This disciplinary team composed of site staff, teachers, and cabin leaders works to monitor students and takes disciplinary action when necessary.
On the trail, teachers can assist the Naturalist by focusing students on the lesson. Misbehavior will likely be addressed by the Naturalist or the student's Cabin Leader, but teachers are always empowered to approach individual students or speak to the group as a whole. As part of the outdoor education team, teachers are encouraged to treat program students as their own. Consequences administered throughout the week are recorded in the discipline logbook in Gyro, the main office. In this way, teachers and staff will be made aware of student behavior and prepared to take the next disciplinary step, if necessary. If a child's behavior requires their removal from the program, the Site Director or Senior Naturalist will confer with teachers. Arrangements for transportation will be made with the school administration and the student's family.
The Role of the Cabin Leader
School district outdoor education coordinators recruit students from local high schools to serve as cabin leaders for fifth or sixth grade classes, at an average ratio of one cabin leader to ten students. Cabin leaders travel with their assigned school to the Outdoor Education site. Upon arrival. they attend an orientation session and briefing with the Senior Naturalist. Teachers may decide to provide a pre-Outdoor Education orientation for potential cabin leaders.
A cabin leader's most vital responsibility is to serve as a role model and provide strong leadership for the students assigned to his or her cabin. Cabin leaders' actions, attitudes, and behaviors are closely observed and often imitated by the students. Therefore, the students' successes at Outdoor Education are determined largely by the positive modeling of their cabin leaders.
Specific duties include assistance with student move-in, review and enforcement of rules, design of campfire performances, and nighttime student supervision. Cabin leaders also contribute to the maintenance of order during naturalist-led activities and oversee students during mealtimes.
Districts are highly encouraged to participate in the selection of cabin leaders. Teachers should contact their district's outdoor education coordinator if they are interested in being a part of the selection process. Teachers can ensure the quality and continuation of the high school cabin leader program by providing positive feedback to the cabin leaders, their high schools, local newspapers, and the community after their return from Outdoor Education.
The Role of the Parent
Parents are essential to student participation in and enjoyment of the Outdoor Education program. Parent enthusiasm and endorsement dramatically affect the students' experience.
Prior to Outdoor Education, a naturalist visits each attending school to provide a presentation to help prepare the students for their week. Parents are welcome to attend this session but should be aware that this is a primarily student-focused presentation. Schools may want to hold a parent information session as well. Because parents are not permitted to visit their children during their week of Outdoor Education, parents often appreciate an information session or site invitation.
Medical supervision is provided for students at Outdoor Education 24 hours a day. Parents can inform the Healthcare Specialist of any student medical needs by recording allergies and conditions on the registration form. The Healthcare Specialist, who is the resident EMT, will dispense any necessary medication and will contact parents should a child experience medical problems while at Outdoor Education.
Parents can assist their children by adhering carefully to the clothing checklist. Proper clothing for the seasons is essential for the students' comfort and well-being. Parents should also be aware of what is not permitted at Outdoor Education.
While Outdoor Education is an opportunity for student academic and scholastic growth, it also presents an opportunity for social and individual growth. It is normal for students to miss their family and home for the first few hours at Outdoor Education, but being away from home is an important part of the pre-adolescent maturation process. Parents can help prepare their children for this experience by communicating their excitement and by arranging overnights prior to Outdoor Education attendance. Also, parents can help ensure a full experience at Outdoor Education by having the students stay the entire week with no interruptions. (i.e. pulling out students for extra-curricular activities such as little league games, recitals, etc.)
- Processing a Referral
- Transportation, Costs and Fundraising
- Tips for Homesickness
- State Standards and Correlation
- Pre-OE Student Survey
- Pre-Outdoor Education Curriculum
- Post-Outdoor Education Curriculum
- Post-Outdoor Education Student Survey
- Additional Resources
- Student Journal
- Teachers’ Schedule
- Packing List for Teachers
© 2019 San Mateo Outdoor Education