Outdoor Education: A Time to Inquire, Connect, and Understand

Outdoor Ed! We all know of the excitement and anticipation surrounding those two words. For students these trips represent that coveted opportunity to be independent, and for parents the experience can often be filled with a lot of nerves, and the simple hope that everyone returns home in one piece! At Keys School, Outdoor Ed trips represent a pivotal moment of growth and connection for our students.

Outdoor Ed has been at the heart of Keys since its founding. What once started as an opportunity to be one with nature, converse under the stars, sleep in a tent, etc., has since transformed to a time where students can step outside of their comfort zones and self-reflect, without distraction. The natural world is a unique stage where students have the space and freedom to discover, explore, and inquire. Students learn to live in the moment, instead of seeing the world through a screen, to be good stewards of the earth, leaving every site as they found it so it can be equally enjoyed by the next person. Students also experience firsthand the importance of being there for each other, encouraging one another during a hike or a talk, and working together.

Keys partners with the Naturalists at Large organization to arrange Outdoor Ed trips to a variety of beautiful locations, all in our own backyard, including Point Reyes, Big Sur, Salt Point, and Mono Lake. Each location is carefully selected to correspond to larger themes in each grade’s curriculum. Fourth grade students go to Point Reyes, as it harkens to their studies of CA history during the year; students learn about Native American tribes, the trails they would follow and the plants they would forage for in that area. Seventh grade students, who focus on sustainability and environmental impact, venture to Mono Lake to study how the constant diversion of water from the lake to LA not only affects the salinity of the lake itself but also the wildlife that depend on the location during migration and mating seasons. Regardless of the location students get to explore that year, they return from Outdoor Ed not only with a renewed sense of curiosity about the natural world, but a deeper connection to their classmates and a greater understanding of themselves.

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