The importance of outdoor experiential education

Growing up in Los Angeles as an immigrant, I never had the opportunity with my family to go and explore nature. It was not part of our family ethos. My parents’ main objective was to work hard and provide for the family. Yes, we would go to parks, and sometimes museums, but never go for a hike. In Colombia, where my family is from, hiking, let alone camping, was unheard of when my parents were growing up. It just wasn’t something that people did.

So, my first real experience in the outdoors was when our Sixth Grade class went away for a two-night trip in the Angeles Crest Mountains in California to an outdoor education center. This was a pivotal moment in my education and in my life. It was the first time I had ever truly connected with nature, and it inspired awe and reverence in me in a way I had never experienced until that point in my young life.

Eighth Grade students in Horizons at CA visited Broken Arrow Ranch in Wyoming and made a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Eighth Grade students in Horizons at CA visited Broken Arrow Ranch in Wyoming and made a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

As I got older, I had more of those types of experiences, and every time I came back transformed. In today’s digital age, we are even more removed from our natural world than ever before. Inner-city kids, especially, spend little to no time exploring nature, and society finds itself confronting a problem known as “nature-deficit disorder.” The term, coined by Richard Louv in the 2005 best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, is used to define human alienation from nature. Given the gravity of rampant environmental degradation, the only way that this up-and-coming generation is going to care enough to preserve our planet is by exposing them to the glory and bounty that nature has to offer.

For all of these reasons, Horizons at CA is committed to providing our students with deep, meaningful experiences in nature. We have invested tremendous resources to provide our students with high-quality outdoor overnights this summer and hope to expand upon the program next year.

Below is a list of all of the overnight trips we will be doing this summer in Horizons at CA:

  • 5th Grade – Golden Gate Canyon Park – 1-night overnight with tent camping and hiking
  • 6th Grade – YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch – 1-night overnight in Estes Park
  • 7th Grade – Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, 1-night overnight
  • 8th Grade – Broken Arrow Ranch, Wyo., 4-night excursion
  • 9th Grade – Rocky Mountain National Park Backpacking and Rock Climbing, 3-night excursion
  • 10th/11th Grades – Kayaking, 1-day field trip

Being in nature, getting away from all of the constant clamor of the city, is so healing and so needed during these tumultuous times. We are incredibly fortunate that we are able to provide these types of experiential learning experiences for our students and look forward to improving the program year after year, for each student’s sake and for nature’s sake.