Outdoor school from a new point of view

Megan Voss, Staffer

Outdoor school was something that almost all students in Oregon have a collection of memories from. It’s really a right of passage into the realm of middle school since all sixth graders usually attend. I remember eagerly awaiting arrival at my camp, Trickle Creek, curiously waiting to find out what living in a cabin with my classmates and learning in nature would actually be like. 


Recently, I went back to Trickle Creek as a student leader. Because of my fond memories of outdoor school as a sixth grader, I knew I wanted my chance to be a leader in it as a high schooler. As a senior, it seemed like a full circle moment that I couldn’t wait to explore from a new point of view. As I was on the way to camp, six years after I went the first time, a similar feeling of wonder filled me. It was special to notice how the anticipation of outdoor school hadn’t really changed over time. 

As a student leader, I was anxious to receive the list of names that would soon be my responsibility for the week. Thankfully, I also had a co-leader to divide their energy up a bit. The weather prediction had also turned rotten over the weekend and did not help my slight feeling of impending doom. 

After lots of training on Monday, and becoming friends with all of the leaders, I met my cabin of girls the next morning. I introduced myself as “Kelp,” my camp name. Throughout the week, I loved getting to know the eight girls in my cabin. It was inspiring to see them open up to me and their classmates who they may not have been as close with at the beginning of the week. One of my favorite moments of connection with them was the nightly “tuck ins” where I talked with them about their day right before bed. I truly felt like I could make a difference in these kids’ lives. While they were at times exhausting and preferred to fight each other with sticks rather than listen, being around them was refreshing and exciting. 

Teaching small groups of kids while hiking in the woods emphasized a passion that I’d already had an inkling I would enjoy– teaching. Explaining all of the different plants and gathering a leaf or two from each for us to eat was so fun. I loved asking for their observations on all of the sights we saw in the plant study that I was assigned to for the week. We ate dandelions with soy sauce and dug up roots of a licorice fern that most kids would spit out instantly. Despite the rainy weather, I tried to help them learn and remember even just one thing about the plants at Trickle Creek. Along the hike, I learned more about the sixth graders and what they enjoyed doing at home. One student talked to me about how he was glad that they aren’t allowed to have phones since they wouldn’t be having so much fun with each other. Another told me about his favorite characters in South Park, and I learned just how far the extent of the capybara obsession ran.

Looking back on the week, I slowly felt the exhaustion and stress disappear behind the small moments I had with the kids and all that I’d learned from them. I’m so glad I took the opportunity to go to outdoor school, and even though I was given a mountain of homework when I returned to school on Monday, the memories I made and experience I had outweighed the resulting work.