Specifics About Walden West School
Overview - The best way to learn about the environment is by being actively involved with it. Research and classroom-based studies show that students in environment based education programs learn better, are better citizens at school, and transfer their learning to new situations better. Environment based education helps students to feel more confident, to feel part of their community, and to think.
Trails throughout Sanborn and Stevens Canyon County Park provide classrooms rich in diversity of plant and animal life. Creek, pond, forest, meadow, and chaparral communities afford students the opportunity to explore the natural environment while learning about the sciences. From the time students arrive at Walden West Outdoor Science School, they are immersed in a week of intense hands on natural science learning from morning until night. Besides fulfilling the state science standards, the Walden West program allows for exposure to the magnificence of nature, the joy of meeting new friends, the enhancement of a child's personal responsibility and sense of independence, and the feelings of accomplishment after a week away from home. All of this creates a once in a lifetime experience. Not only is science learned, but the social skills that are acquired will help them throughout their life.
The Academics - The Walden West Outdoor School curriculum is closely aligned to the Science Standards recently developed by the California Academic Standards Commission. In addition to the academic core content of science, the Standards Commission recognizes that students must build connections to issues such as population, natural resources, environmental quality, and global challenges. The Walden West Outdoor School experience provides the perfect forum.
Field Classes - An average of 165 students from three different schools attend our program each week. These fifth or sixth graders are divided into eight classes and are taught by an instructor experienced in teaching about natural sciences in the outdoors. Monday through Wednesday students have two field classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. On Thursday, students enjoy an all day hike and eat lunch while on the trail. Fridays are short and focus on class and site closure. Field class learning is the most intense. Concepts such as photosynthesis, adaptations, erosion, succession, weather study, astronomy are learned through active games, exploration, discovery, observation techniques and the use of scientific equipment. Students have so much fun, they often don't realize they are learning. One student when asked by his parents what he learned replied "I'm not sure, but I sure had a lot of fun!" The Walden West outdoor school experience is recommended and certified by the California State Department of Education. The curriculum follows the California State Framework and satisfies requirements for fifth and sixth graders.
Eco-Responsibility - In addition to learning science concepts, each field class does an eco-action... something they do at outdoor school that helps the environment in some way. Some classes will write letters about a current issue, others will work on trails, make conservation signs, or recycle. On Friday, the projects are shared with the rest of the school. We hope that by students doing an eco-action on site, they will be encouraged to participate in our eco-action challenge and carry out their own projects when they return to school. An average of 25 schools have participated in the challenge each year. Students have cleaned and protected open space, begun gardens and recycling programs, and educated other students about water and energy conservation.
Meals - All meals are child friendly. Breakfast always includes a cold cereal and a hot dish such as pancakes, french toast, waffles or eggs. Lunch and diner include spaghetti, tacos chicken, corn dogs, pizza and hamburgers. Food is served in bowls to each table group and students take what they like. A vegetarian alternative is always offered. Every aspect of the outdoor school experience is educational. Besides being an eating time, meals are used for another learning experience. After each meal, wasted food is scraped into a can and weighed. As a group, if they have less than 50 oz's each meal and under 25 for one they earn their way onto the No Waste Hall of Fame. Students learn that everything they do has an impact on the environment. Wasted food not only wastes money, it also wastes land, energy and the lives of plants and animals. The No Waste Hall of Fame also teaches students to work together as a team to achieve a common goal.
Evening Programs - Evenings allow us to bring the night alive. Campfire and skits programs build team spirit and the environmentally oriented songs teach students even more about what they have learned during the day. Cabin groups must work together to accomplish fun tasks as part of the evening entertainment. The most remembered activity is the night hike. Most people have never hiked during the night. Students are enthralled by the sounds they hear and the scents they smell. They can experience nature in a way they aren't usually able to. The night sky provides an additional classroom. Telescopes allow students to view constellations and far away galaxies. The Milky Way is always visible on clear nights. Our last night provides us opportunity to review all the information students have learned throughout the week. Cabin jeopardy allows us to see how much students have learned and review concepts in a fun and exciting way.
Cabin Groups - Classroom teachers help to form the cabin groups. They group them so that they will work well with the people they live with and have the most successful week possible. This mix of 15-20 students, live and learn together while at outdoor school. Students spend time with children from other schools that they might not normally meet. They learn to solve problems and work together as a team. Each child is responsible for keeping his or her bunk and cabin clean and keep following the direction of the high school cabin leader.
Socialization - Most schools are composed of students from similar socio-economic backgrounds. At Walden West students mix other schools and learn about different cultures and experiences. Students come from ethnically diverse backgrounds. 62% of our students are of non-white decent. By living together, children can enjoy each others company and learn to appreciate cultural's differences. Team work is an integral part of the Walden West program. Working together on cheers, posters, and contests, students learn how to get along and be a member of a team. Students who have special problems or needs are helped by their cabin mates. Children learn compassion and empathy while living with each other and realize that people with physical, emotional or learning handicaps are just as human as they are.
Cabin Leaders - Cabin Leaders are the most integral part of our program. High school students voluntarily spend a week with the elementary school children. They must sign out of their own school in order to attend the Walden West program. Many have attended as children and remember their own cabin leader and how wonderful he or she was. Cabin Leaders act as "the parent" in the cabin. They help organize the students and give them support when students need it. They help with such things as homesickness, cheer planning, disputes, and a myriad of other things. They also act as aides to the instructors and help lead activities during the day. Cabin leaders benefit enormously from the program by developing leadership skills and a greater understanding of natural processes.For more information call Walden West at (408) 573-3060 or email us at email@example.com.