Tag Archives: Outdoor School

A good night’s sleep

15 Mar

Like most people, I sleep better at home than away. When I took my 6th graders to Outdoor School for the first time last year, I had an epic bed fail.

I had no idea what to expect, and having no sleeping bag, I brought a flat bottom sheet, a blanket, and a small sofa pillow. It was a total disaster. I hadn’t anticipated that the mattress wold have a hard, vinyl covering.


The mattress itself wasn’t uncomfortable. Because I brought a flat sheep, it slipped off as I tossed and turned through the night. That left me laying on the vinyl, which was surprisingly noisy. My small pillow slipped through head rail and my blanket wasn’t enough. I slept terribly all three nights we were away.

This year, when I learned we’d be attending the same camp, I started planning for a better sleep experience. I considered purchasing a sleeping bag, but decided against it because  hate having my feet contained in that way. I decided to bring a full sized pillow, a fitted flannel sheet, and a comforter cover. As I made my bed on Tuesday afternoon, I knew my sleep would be better.


I had a great sleep the first night and the fitted sheet worked perfectly, even though it was for a full-sized mattress, not a twin. The second night, my sleep was more fitful. the bedding still worked perfectly. The problem was that my mind wouldn’t shut down after learning we’d have to leave early due to Oregon’s decision to cancel all extra-curricular activities.

Before we left, we joked with the camp director that last year was fire (you can read about that here), this year was pestilence, who knew what we’d bring to Trickle Creek next year. Regardless of where we are or what disaster awaits us, I have a solid plan for a good night’s sleep while I am away.


14 Mar

Five chinchillas
Short-haired chinchillas
Chillin’ with the lights out
Chillin’ with the lights out
Chillin’ with the lights out
Chillin’ with the lights out

We were at campfire Wednesday night and the kids were singing their hearts out. Just as we made it to 2 chinchillas, the phone in my back pocket rang.

Who would call me here, now? I wondered as I fumbled to retrieve it and turn off the ringer. When I saw the caller was my principal, I knew I had to take the call.

“Hey, Adrienne. Are there kids around?” she asked.

“We are at campfire,” I replied. “Can you hear them? Give me a moment to walk away.”

And that’s when she broke the bad news. They were sending buses to pick us up the next morning. Outdoor School (ODS) was being cancelled because Oregon was limiting extra-curricular activities  to protect people from COVID-19. And ODS was on that list.

Her final admonition to me was tough. “Don’t tell the other teachers until you get a text from me.”

So, I had to sit through the rest of campfire, holding this sad news in my mind and heart. As soon as it was over and we were walking back to our cabin, I turned to my two teaching partners and blurted, “Veronica called. I have to tell you something.”

There was no way I couldn’t tell them. Back in our cabin we ranted and vented. Maybe we ate more snacks than we should have. We all wished we had some adult beverages. After talking it out we went to to bed, only to be awakened an hour later by camp staff knocking on our door. They had just found out.

The next morning, after breakfast, we told the kids. Their gasp was audible. We spent the remainder of the morning giving the kids the best last few hours of Outdoor School ever.


Plan B

23 Apr

This morning I should be on a bus, headed to outdoor school for four days and three nights. The sixth graders from the other three halls in my building are going. Alas, Green Hall is staying behind.

Two Saturdays ago we got a text saying the main lodge at the camp we were supposed to attend had burned to the ground.  Most of last week was spent waiting to find out if we could go to another camp this week or if we’d go a different week. The kids had tones of questions.

If we don’t go this year, can we go as seventh graders?

When will they tell us?

What happens at school if we don’t go?

If we don’t go to Outdoor School, do we still have to come to school?

Their agony was ended Thursday when we were – finally – told we would not go the same week as the other sixth graders, we’d go June 4-7, the second last week of school.

Action and consequence. The kids were relieved, but the teachers and admins started scrambling. Schedules had to be created for a rotation through Specialists. My team decided that we’d toss out the schedule on Wednesday and have kids rotate through camp like activities and have a picnic lunch outside along with a massive game of Capture the flag. It won’t be quite the same, but it will be a good placeholder until the real this comes around.



Outdoor School SOLSC 17

17 Mar

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day and I’m wearing green, of course. Green happens to be one of my favorite colors.I tend to like dark greens, the earthy tones,  rather than lighter ones. To me,  is Canada in Summer, but Oregon in Winter. And that gets me thinking about Outdoor School .

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 6.24.41 PM

It used to be that all 6th graders in Oregon went to Outdoor School. We’s pack our suitcases & sleeping bags and set off in a school bus for someplace in the woods where our suburban kids had never been. It felt very far away to many of them, even though to was less than 2 hours from home. Psychologically it was another planet for some. Our kids den;t grow up camping or hiking, all the things I’d grown up doing. These were apartment kids. Some of them lived in complexes where their parents didn’t let them play outside.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that some of them were afraid in the woods, but it did. . The kids weren’t allowed to walk anywhere alone,  for that reason, and for general safety purposes. Once, walking an African-American girl to the restrooms, she actually asked me if I was scared. I was surprised and said no.. She told me it freaked her out to be in the woods. She couldn’t see very far and it was unfamiliar. Who know what was lurking around the bend in the path?   To me, forests represent peace and serenity; to her they meant danger and the unknown, like the worst parts of a Grimm fairytale.

Times are tough and that doesn’t happen in my school district anymore. It hasn’t happened since before the recession. And I think it is a shame. It was one of the early victims of school funding.Libraries and music are more recent casualties.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend The Last Child in the Woods  by Richard Louv. It gets criticized for its lack of empirical evidence, and it rambles, but it gets you thinking about kids, like the ones I taught, who are disconnected from the outdoors.


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