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 6th Grade Camp Turns 75 - Go Outside and Celebrate

In honor of 6th Grade Camp’s 75th anniversary today, we invite you to go outside and enjoy nature!

After all, if you’re one of the millions of students that attended one of SDCOE’s camps over the years - Cuyamaca, Palomar, or Fox – you learned to appreciate the great outdoors while at camp and probably have a few memories from your experience. Take a hike and journey back to that week in the mountains when it was just you, your classmates, your hike leader, and nature. 

"Sixth Grade Camp continues to be an unforgettable experience, offering students the opportunity to learn and grow in many ways, get outdoors, and disconnect for a little while,” said Principal Kris Pamintuan. “We are looking forward to resuming to in-person activities as soon as it’s safe to do so, welcoming students back to camp, and continuing the tradition of connecting kids to science and nature."

In the meantime, Cuyamaca Outdoor School is (COS) is enjoying bringing camp home to students in videos and virtually. Cuyamaca Home Edition offers more than 50 videos created by staff, as well as 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 connect to nature, as well,” Pamintuan said. “Our goal was to share science and nature with as many people as we can.”

COS also recently launched its new distance learning program, Virtually Camp Cuyamaca: An Outdoor School Experience. The five-day program is modeled on what students would experience during a week at COS. At Virtually Camp Cuyamaca, students explore science and nature curriculum by participating in activities online and outside. Each day, the student experience includes virtual field trips, exploration time activities, evening programs activities, and completing activities in their COS science journal. Additionally, each student receives an exclusive COS science kit.

“We are excited about our virtual camp offering and think students will find it fun, engaging, and valuable,” said Dustin Burns, outdoor education program specialist, who has been with COS for 25 years. “It has optional evening activities where students can log in from home and even include their families in listening to stories, singing songs, watching silly staff skits, and making smores.”

The first group of San Diego 6th graders journeyed with their classroom teachers to Cuyamaca Outdoor School for 6th Grade Camp on March 17, 1946. The experience of spending five days and four nights in the mountains as part of a 6th grader's science and social studies lessons was unusual at the time, only being done in a few other places throughout the United States. The concept was a good one: provide first-hand experiences in environmental education and natural sciences while, at the same time, introducing children to social situations requiring the application of democratic principles and individual responsibility. Seventy-five years later, the tradition continues. 

SDCOE's 6th Grade Camp program is the oldest outdoor school in California. Until 2010, SDCOE hosted 6th Grade Camp at three sites: Cuyamaca Outdoor School, Camp Fox near Santa Ysabel, and Camp Palomar on Palomar Mountain. Now, 6th Grade Camp occurs solely at the Cuyamaca site, about an hour east of San Diego. Approximately 12,000 students attend camp each school year, with up to 432 students participating each week. The program is open to public, charter, and private schools in San Diego County and beyond. 

“In the Santee School District, we take learning seriously, which is why we continue to support the week-long outdoor education program provided by the SDCOE for our 6th grade students,” said Superintendent Kristin Baranski. “We know the delivered curriculum is top notch and staff is highly qualified. Our students will never forget their camp experience and we love hearing their stories when they return.”

Cuyamaca Outdoor School is celebrating its anniversary all year, and is encouraging 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 journal entries to cuyamaca@sdcoe.net, and consider joining the nonprofit Outdoor Education Foundation. Connect with 6th Grade Camp on Facebook and spread the word with friends, family members, and colleagues who grew up in San Diego.