It's a countywide tradition that even earned a mention in BuzzFeed's list to prove you grew up in San Diego.
The weeklong visit to Cuyamaca, Palomar, or Fox for 6th Grade Camp is a memory you never – or can't – forget!
Since 1946, more than 1 million students from around the county and beyond have attended 6th Grade Camp outdoor schools run by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). And today, SDCOE is celebrating a major milestone for the program – its 70th birthday.
That's 70 years of hiking through a state park, seven decades of students bunking down with classmates for a week away from home, and 25,550 days of teaching children to learn about, appreciate, and respect nature, science, and natural resources.
"Today, 6th Grade Camp is alive and well, and more important than ever," said Greg Schuett, principal of the 6th Grade Camp outdoor school at Cuyamaca. "We're looking forward to many more years of connecting kids to science and nature."
SDCOE's 6th Grade Camp program is the oldest outdoor school in California. The first students headed up to camp in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park on March 17, 1946, and students have been creating unforgettable experiences there ever since. Until 2010, SDCOE hosted 6th Grade Camp at three sites: Cuyamaca Outdoor School, Camp Fox near Santa Ysabel, and Camp Palomar near Palomar Mountain. Now, 6th Grade Camp is housed solely at the Cuyamaca site, about an hour east of San Diego. About 12,000 students attend camp each school year, with up to 432 each week.
The 6th Grade Camp program is open to public, charter, and private schools in San Diego County and beyond. Among the committed campers are schools from Orange County and Yuma, Ariz. While 6th Grade Camp is considered a San Diego tradition, there's a misperception that all sixth-graders in the county attend the accredited outdoor science school.
"The reality is, only 20 percent go," Outdoor Education Foundation President Mike Watson said. "We work to ensure more students have the opportunity to connect with science and nature, and escape what can be an urban bubble."
The foundation raises funds for camperships, and this year secured a $10,000 grant from Ashford University to send 65 Cesar Chavez Elementary students to camp. The entire south central San Diego school rallied to fundraise and match the donation, so that the students could enjoy a camp experience for five days and four nights in February.
SDCOE is celebrating Campiversary all year, and is calling for 6th Grade Camp alumni to share their memories, and learn how they can help more San Diego County students attend 6th Grade Camp. Send camp stories, photos, and journals, and consider joining the nonprofit Outdoor Education Foundation. Sign up for our new camp newsletter to stay up to date on upcoming 70th anniversary events and camp news. Connect with 6th Grade Camp on Facebook and Twitter. And spread the word with friends, family members, and colleagues who grew up in San Diego.