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Middle School Returns to the Great Outdoors

By Meghan Edwards, assistant head of Middle School for academics and global education
The Outdoor Education programs resume after a two-year break.
Outdoor Education has a long and rich history at LJCDS. The school has partnered with Naturalists at Large based out of Ventura to offer 182 outdoor experiential learning programs to Middle School students over the past 35 years. Students have been exposed to various locations covering the wide range of ecosystems and environments that exist in California. 
 
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Middle School resumed the programs for all four grade levels. 
  • Grade 5 students traveled to Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park near San Juan Capistrano for an introduction to tent camping and basic outdoor living skills.
  • Grade 6 students traveled to Joshua Tree National Park to camp and rock climb. 
  • Grades 7 and 8 spent time at Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island, where they snorkeled, kayaked and hiked. 


On each trip, students made explicit connections to their science curricula and learned about the ecology and biodiversity of the environments. 

The mission of Outdoor Education is to challenge students to step outside of their comfort zones by trying new physical activities like rock climbing, cross country skiing and snorkeling to help them develop their independence, resilience and confidence. Students build relationships with their peers and faculty through team-building activities, games, unstructured free time and talent shows. They learn to persevere through new challenges and help each other gain confidence as they begin to master new skills.

Below are reflections from a few students. 
  • “This trip inspired me to do activities such as snorkeling that I would normally not try and ended up loving, and, get to know peers within my grade better. I am not a huge fan of the ocean. But, after Catalina and all the fun things we did in the ocean, I can’t wait to go to the beach!” —Talia Mackin ’27
  • “Doing something uncomfortable is something that’s hard for everyone, but pushing our comfort zones was something we had to do every day at Catalina. I never wanted to jump into freezing cold water, I never wanted to go to bed early every day, I never wanted to talk to people that I didn’t know the best, but those were all things I did at Catalina." —Vicky Chen ’26 
  • “I went out of my comfort zone this trip by talking to new people and making new friends, which is something I don’t usually do. Also, I chose to snorkel in the choice block, which is something I don’t usually do.” —Andie Javier ’26
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