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History of San Diego Outdoor Education


In 1942, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan held a national conference. The purpose was to spread the word about putting children back in touch with nature in a school-out-of-school environment. Representatives from San Diego City and County attended  this conference, where  they gained knowledge and inspiration to plan the outdoor education program for San Diego County. This led to the establishment of the SDCCCC (San Diego City-County Camp Commission ).

By March 17, 1946 the first group of San Diego sixth graders journeyed with their classroom teachers to Camp Cuyamaca. The experience of spending five days and four nights in the mountains as part of a sixth 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.

Not long after the first group of students attended camp, Denver C. Fox was appointed principal in 1947 of Camp Cuyamaca, Palomar, and other rental sites. After his leadership role ended in 1971, SDCCCC acquired its third permanent site, naming it Camp Fox as a tribute. This site was used full time for outdoor school from 1988 until 2010 when Cuyamaca was expanded to also serve the students and staff of Camp Fox. In the early 70s, now titled specialists, replaced most of the credentialed teachers on site. At the time, the teachers had been loaned to the program from participating school districts.

In 1972, responsibility for Sixth Grade Camp was transferred from SDCCCC to the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). SDCOE is now responsible for operating and staffing the program and also currently oversees the Outreach Program (created in the 90s), the expanded program at Cuyamaca Outdoor School, as well as all rental activity at Camp Palomar. In 1983, San Diego Unified School District assumed operations of Camp Palomar for a Race-Human Relations program until it closed in 2011.

Today, Cuyamaca Outdoor School is the largest program in California, serving nearly 12,000 students each year! Operating with three villages, Pine, Oak, and Cedar, instruction is provided by a credentialed teacher and education specialists. Now more than ever, children need the opportunity to un-plug and connect to the environment and the people around them. We look forward to offering this unique experience for generations to come.