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 Helping Students Connect With Nature

Since 1946, students throughout San Diego County have learned about science and connected with nature at 6th Grade Camp.

More than 12,000 students attend the weeklong program each year at Camp Cuyamaca, in the mountains east of San Diego. It’s part of the San Diego County Office of Education’s Outdoor Education unit.

It’s a rite of passage for many in the county and the oldest outdoor education program in the state.

The hands-on lessons incorporate state science standards with lessons in biology, botany, geology, meteorology, astronomy, outdoor skills, and Native American lore. There are also plenty of crafts and activities, such as songs around the campfire, a talent show, archery, rock climbing, and hiking.

“Everything we do with them is hands-on,” said Dustin Burns, an outdoor education specialist. “Kids keep that knowledge so much more by interacting and being able to touch things.”

Camp Cuyamaca is split into three villages, each with a cabin for girls and one for boys. Most students come with their classroom teacher and stay for four nights.

For the week, students put phones and other electronics down to connect with nature through long hikes, reflection time, and encounters with wildlife.

The mission of the Outdoor Education program is to provide students with experiential learning programs that enhance awareness and scientific understanding of the natural world and their connection to it while building self-reliance, teamwork, and a sense of social responsibility.