Students, naturalists, and seasoned educators agree that teacher participation is intimately related to student success at Outdoor Education. Because teachers know the students best, the Outdoor Education staff look to teachers’ support, advice, and guidance in their efforts to build relationships with students. Teachers' endorsement of and participation in activities that motivate students and legitimizes their involvement as well as prepares instructors to integrate outdoor education into classroom-based 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 can be found on the Weekly Schedule and Menu page.
Supporting Cabin Leaders
School district outdoor education coordinators recruit students from local high schools to serve as cabin leaders, 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.
Parents are also essential to student participation in and enjoyment of the Outdoor Education program since 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.).
The Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative has created a Project Based Learning Curriculum to implement in the weeks before and after Outdoor Education. This curriculum is a framework for teachers to use (and adapt) as they please. The curriculum will cover topics such as:
- The Earth's four spheres
- Water efficiency, waste management, and land use
- How to perform audits of the energy, water, waste, and land-use systems and practices found within a
- Reflecting on one's relationship with nature
- Designing either an advocacy or action campaign to make school more like Camp Jones Gulch
To learn more about this curriculum, please watch the Outdoor Education Project Based Learning Teacher Training video.
You can also access the Project Based Learning materials on the San Mateo Outdoor Education Curriculum website.
Director, Outdoor Environmental Education
Phone: (650) 747-9581
Steve Van Zandt
Manager, Outdoor Education
Phone: (650) 747-0414
Administrative Assistant, Outdoor Education Information and Registration
Phone: (650) 802-5360