The 2017-18 season at Cuyamaca Outdoor School kicked off in exciting ways thanks to another record-breaking open house and Lemon Grove School District's return to 6th Grade Camp after a nine-year absence.
The first week of camp brought nearly 300 students from four Lemon Grove schools up to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Two additional Lemon Grove schools are scheduled for a week at camp in October. Lemon Grove Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Berman said it was a pleasure to visit Cuyamaca Outdoor School during the week with two school board members to see the learning in action among their students.
Board President Larry Loschen attended 6th Grade Camp when he was a student, and board member Katie Dexter's children attended as well.
"For many of our students, this was their first outdoor camping experience," Loschen said. "They were able to truly experience nature. For many, this may have been their first time away from family. I hope that they were able to see the importance of physical activity as well as see that they can survive without their electronics."
Loschen added that he especially appreciated the focus on science and conservation, as well as Cuyamaca Outdoor School's ability to "include any student with physical limitations. I appreciate the efforts made to be completely inclusive for all students. The 24-hour health center, staffed by appropriate health professionals, is an outstanding feature. The camp staff was outstanding -- caring, welcoming, and enthusiastic."
Added Dexter, "I do think getting outside of the city and getting in touch with nature is important for the soul. This camp gives kids the opportunity to be away from the daily clamors that surround them. They discover new things about the world and themselves and realize that learning doesn't just take place in a classroom."
The San Diego County Outdoor Education Foundation assisted with the Lemon Grove district's return to 6th Grade Camp, said foundation President Mike Watson. "Without our help, we don't think Lemon Grove as a district would have been able to attend camp."
The foundation aid as well as the San Diego County Office of Education's revised camp fees went a long way to getting Lemon Grove back to camp.
"I was pleased that we considered and approved a return to 6th Grade Camp," Loschen said. "Many of our families had been requesting that we offer this opportunity. I was concerned about the cost. I wanted to ensure that we could sustain the cost for future years. I feel strongly that we need to find funding sources for camp -- such parent contributions, fundraising activities, community, and corporate donations -- that will not impact our general fund."
The foundation is continually raising funds to support schools from low-income areas. At the open house, held the weekend before the start of camp, the foundation raised more than $3,000 selling lunch and T-shirts. That pays for a half-campership for 17 students, Watson said.
About 1,200 students, parents, teachers, and camp alumni explored camp during open house this year.
"It was very heartwarming to me to see so many families excited about giving their child the experience of attending outdoor school," Principal Greg Schuett said. "The love and concern for their children was so apparent and moving. Many parents expressed sincere gratitude for the open house opportunity. They said that it made them and their child more comfortable seeing where they would eat, sleep, and learn. They truly appreciated meeting the people that they were entrusting with the care of the most precious thing in the world to them – their child."
View an album of photos from the 2017 open house here.
Not every 6th-grader in San Diego County has the opportunity to attend 6th Grade Camp. The Outdoor Education Foundation, a nonprofit that supports 6th Grade Camp, continues to work to change that by sponsoring individual camperships and schools. For information on how you can help, visit the foundation website.
Would you like to get your school to 6th Grade Camp? Contact Principal Greg Schuett at 760-765-4101 or the Outdoor Education office at 858-292-3695.