We know you have questions ... it's OK. We're here to answer them.
- Will my child get eaten by a bear?
- How will my child survive in the wild without Netflix?
- What does my student actually learn out in the wilderness?
- I’m worried about my child out in the wilderness. Can I trust you?
- Where exactly are you taking my child?
- What does my child need to pack?
While there is a risk of encountering bears (and other wild animals) in the wild, Chadwick’s Outdoor Ed instructors are veteran experts well-versed in each course area’s land management policies. We strictly follow and enforce those guidelines and precautions to both respect the natural environment and keep students safe.
Human food can be very enticing, and bears in particular are curious animals that possess a powerful sense of smell. We not only aim to avoid attracting unwanted attention, we also aim to avoid shifting the natural behavior of animals in a negative way. Instructors will guide your student on best practices for properly storing food, managing personal waste and maintaining safe behaviors regarding bears and other wildlife.
Students are highly active and engaged out in the wilderness. They practice critical backpacking skills like route planning, map reading and compass navigation, selecting and cooking food, proper prep and cleanup, using the correct equipment, negotiating how much fuel to take, selecting a campsite, pitching shelters, packing their packs effectively, hygiene, self-care, temperature regulation and equipment maintenance. Depending on the course itinerary, students get to hike, camp, rappel and explore some of the most beautiful landscapes in California.
Starting in the Middle School, students begin engaging in monitored solitude where they are allotted time alone to reflect and journal about their experience. This time increases with each grade course and is carefully observed by instructors via check-ins. This time encourages contemplation, reflection, meditation and introspection. On varying levels, it can teach self-reliance, patience, stamina, appreciation of self, appreciation of others, meaning of the course, loss and/or the meaning of life. It’s also a time for rest and recuperation.
Outdoor courses present unique opportunities for students to experience powerful teaching moments that couldn’t possibly be mirrored at home or in the classroom. Students enter an environment that is physically contrasting and socially diverse in comparison to their school and home life. As a direct result of these challenges, they cultivate a profound sense of self-confidence, self-direction and self-knowledge. Students return home having transformed their relationship to themselves, their environment and to each other.
In addition to teaching specific wilderness skills, a fundamental aspect of instructors' work is to encourage students to take physical and emotional risks while keeping actual risk to a minimum. As they advance through the grade courses, they spend more time backpacking in small groups. Even the simplest tasks require planning, communication and teamwork. The mere act of living and working with the rest of the group can stimulate change and growth. Everything from weather to terrain to hiking provides an opportunity for first-hand learning. Action or lack of action often has immediate consequences.
Group dynamics, trust and interpersonal communications are paramount, and learning becomes more acute as they work their way through unpredictable challenges. Incredible bonds are formed and invaluable life skills are learned as students overcome the mental and emotional stresses and strains of the course. They reflect, grow and can then critically apply that learning to school, home and life in general.
Our program has been accredited by the Association for Experiential Education since 1997. Earning and maintaining that accreditation means passing an external review every three years and a peer review every 10 years. We’re required to submit an annual report and pass 330 specific standards of approval.
Under the guidance of Chadwick’s Outdoor Education Director, instructors follow a written syllabus for each course and adhere to a detailed set of risk management policies, safety protocols and emergency procedures for each location. All instructors have CPR and Wilderness First Responder certifications.
Students gain experience in risk management, hazard evaluation, decision-making, communication, expedition behavior, leadership and wilderness ethics.
Chadwick’s Outdoor Ed Program gives students unparalleled opportunities to explore some of California’s richest wilderness areas. Here’s a look at the incredible locations they get to discover on their outdoor excursions:
7th Grade - Montana De Oro State Park and Joshua Tree National Park
8th Grade - Sequoia National Forest, Los Padres National Forest
9th Grade - Joshua Tree National Park
10th Grade - John Muir Wilderness and Golden Trout Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, Sierra National Forest; Jennie Lakes Wilderness, Sequoia National Forest
11th Grade - Domelands Wilderness, Sequoia National Forest
12th Grade - South Sierra Wilderness and Golden Trout Wilderness, Sequoia National Forest and Inyo National Forest
Flashlights and bug spray and sunscreen, oh my! Before presenting a laundry list of items to the sales rep at your local wilderness store, check out the detailed personal equipment lists at the end of each course description in our Outdoor Ed Catalog. You’ll find that lists are similar (if not identical) for each course since activities are primarily the same.
Group equipment such as shelters and cooking items are provided by the program. In lieu of tents, we use "mids" — lightweight shelters that help minimize pack weight are therefore easily transportable. Students should only bring items listed on the personal equipment list. Radios, cell phones, electronic games, personal stereos or candy are not permitted in the field and will remain in our transport vans for the duration of the course.