Wilderness Week is just what you think it is. It’s a week in the wilderness. Every year, usually during September, the whole school packs up and heads out. Wilderness Week trips alternate annually between whole-school programs and smaller-group experiences such as kayaking, backpacking, beach camping, and hiking around Tahoe.
Each year the particulars of Wilderness Week are different, but the overarching goals and themes remain the same.
The goals are simple enough and basically two-fold:
1. To get young people out into the mountains, the deserts, the rivers, the beaches – away from their routines and the creature comforts of home — and to have fun while learning something about being prepared for the wilderness and the issues confronting the ecosystems they are visiting.
2. To build community– Wilderness Week allows students to get to know each other better, and allows students and staff (and parents) to interact in a unique environment.
We usually try to alternate the Wilderness Week program where one year the entire school is together in a tent camping or lodge situation, and the next year we divide into six or seven different groups and head in different directions for a more personal experience. In previous years, students participated in an outdoor education program put on by the Gateway Mountain Center in the Donner Summit area. We all stayed and shared meals together at the Clair Tapaan Lodge. We’ve stayed at the Donner Mine Camp in Bear Valley engaged in learning and team-building activities, sports (including rock climbing and hiking), a talent show, and more, as well.
For the smaller trips, we strive to balance the groups of students by gender and grade level. Some of our past small group trips have included:
- Tent Camping at Sugar Pine Point State Park at Lake Tahoe – Day trips to Emerald Bay, Eagle Falls, and some beach time.
Tent Camping at Sand Pond near the Sierra Buttes – A hike to the summit and other nearby lakes, and an inquiry into the natural history of the area.
- Three-day raft trip on the Rogue River in SW Oregon – Class three whitewater, sandy beaches, spawning salmon, eagles, and black bears.
- Mendocino Beach tent camping, etc. – Tide pooling, hiking the nature trail at Jug Handle, beachcombing, and other adventures in the Mendocino area.
- Mt. Goode Mountaineering Trip – Entering the Eastern Sierra from South Lake and camping near Bishop Lake, this group summitted Mt. Goode.
Other Wilderness Weeks have taken place at such varied locations as Sterling Lake Camp outside Cisco Grove, Camp Augusta outside Nevada City, an old CCC camp near Mendocino, Sugar Pine Point State Park, Fallen Leaf Lake, the Rogue River, and the Sonoma Coast.
The benefits of Wilderness Week are immeasurable. Students have the opportunity to really get to know each other across grade levels, they get to know the staff that much more, and they really come together as a community. We see Wilderness Week as a natural extension of our individualized learning focus and a great opportunity for student voice to be heard.