This week my colleagues and I took 140 4th and 5th graders on an Outdoor Education experience. The fourth graders studied the Gold Rush in the place where gold was discovered in CAlifornia in 1848, and 5th grade was immersed in a science and ropes program.

I cannot understate the organization and effort it takes to make this program happen. Planning for this 3 day 2 night trip begins in August when we start school and doesn’t let up until we go in January. It’s a tremendous amount of effort on the part of our 4th and 5th grade teams to ensure that everything runs smoothly, students are safe, and authentic learning takes place.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

We see students who have never set foot outside their city spend three days in the beautiful Coloma valley – hiking in the mountains, studying the American River and learning to work together to achieve their goals. Students who have never spent the night away from home, enjoy a giant two night sleepover with all their classmates, under the guidance and care of endlessly patient and positive parent chaperones. Everyone leaves feeling proud of what they have achieved and begging for more. When we get back to school, our study of the California Gold Rush will be connected to the sights, sounds, and smells we all experienced. Every year before we go I wonder “is it worth it?” and every year when we return, I know we simply must continue this amazing experience.

But every year, it’s becoming harder and harder to go. The cost of the trip this year was $250 which includes the cost of the program, plus the buses to and from our destination. As a public school, we cannot deny access to anyone if they wish to participate, so we have a scholarship program financed by our PTG that will pay for any students whose families cannot afford the trip. But every year, those numbers are going up. I don’t know how much longer our PTG can sustain this financial burdern. We have fundraised, garnered grants, and donations from community organizations, but it’s still not enough. We are going to meet as a staff this week, and try to come up with some more creative ways to raiser money so our students can continue to participate in this amazing experience. So many of our students would never have this kind of opportunity without our Outdoor Education program.

Do you have Outdoor Education at your school?
What kinds of fundraisers have worked well for you?

I would love to hear from you.
Have a great week,