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 Experience Cuyamaca Outdoor School While at Home

Cuyamaca Outdoor School students, lake, and trees

For decades, students across San Diego County have been attending 6th Grade Camp at Cuyamaca Outdoor School (COS).

Since schools were closed in March, hundreds of students have missed out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so the staff at COS decided to bring the experience home to students.

To help teachers, parents, and students capture some of the great experiences at camp, COS launched a home edition, complete with videos, activities, lessons, and more, to engage students in science and connect them to nature right from their own homes.

“Our staff thought it would be fun to share videos of them out in nature in hopes that it would encourage students and families to do the same,” said principal Greg Schuett. “We are hoping to share science and nature with as many people as we can.”

Emily Chambers, a teacher at McAuliffe Elementary in Oceanside, created a lesson theme around the topics featured in the COS videos, and then found similar articles for students to read. She said they were excited to be able to identify specific spiders and plants in their backyards.

An added perk for Chambers’ students was a video chat with COS Education Specialist Emelie Traub, who taught students about adaptations, plants, birds, and astronomy.

“The lesson with Emelie was such an awesome peek at what camp would have been like. My students really enjoyed it,” she said. “She also blended songs into the lessons. Students especially loved the songs!”

After attending camp with her students from Oceanside’s Palmquist Elementary last year, Heidi Smith was hooked. She was determined not to let the opportunity slip by for her students to experience camp.

“The most important thought was to provide the students with a ‘disconnect’ for that week, a life balance that connected their social emotional needs to learning,” Smith said. “It was also an opportunity for them to apply their understanding of the scientific processes through inquiry and connecting it to the world around them.”

Smith used the videos to create a virtual 6th grade camp for her kids during school closures, complete with presentations, field journals, and video chats.

“The hope was to inspire the kids to observe nature on their own and take from it an experience only nature can provide,” Smith said.

Vice Principal Kris Pamintuan said that in the future, COS plans to incorporate some of these videos into pre- and post-lessons for teachers to use at school before and after their Cuyamaca Outdoor School experience. She’s also hoping to use them, along with other content COS is creating, to offer a virtual experience for students who aren’t able to attend due to illness or injury.

Everyone can enjoy COS lessons from home. Content is posted regularly to COS’s playlist on SDCOE’s YouTube channel and on the Cuyamaca Outdoor School Facebook page (search Cuyamaca Outdoor School).