- Will you see any bears?
- What does my student need to pack?
- Why Can’t Students Bring Phones?
- What is your program’s accreditation and your instructors' experience?
- Why do we take trips into the wilderness?
- Where are your trips located?
We might see a bear if we are lucky! Black bears are a healthy and important part of the ecosystem in the Sierra.
The bears we might see in our course area are Black Bears. Black bears come in a range of colors including black, brown, cinnamon, tan and blonde. They are shy, non-aggressive omnivores that eat grass, berries, insects, acorns, birds, dead animals and anything they can easily access.
Black Bears also are attracted to garbage, compost, human food, strongly scented lotions, sunscreens, toiletries, pet food, animal food, small livestock and pets. Unfortunately, when bears are able to access improperly stored trash and food, they become habituated to human spaces, and lose their shyness.
We teach our students about proper food, toiletries and trash storage to maintain healthy, shy bears that are not interested in approaching people. Typically we pack our food and toiletries in “bear Canisters” or Ursacks. We encourage everyone to pack minimal toiletries and unscented items whenever possible.
Occasionally our groups get the opportunity to see a black bear in the wild from a distance! Typically these bears will run away from the group once they notice our presence.
During our pre-course parent and student meetings, we’ll review our detailed Personal Equipment lists for each trip. We’ve tried to craft the packing lists so that items are reusable year after year. These equipment lists can also be found in the Outdoor Education Course Catalog on the Veracross Parent Portal.
The outdoor program provides group equipment including shelters, and food/cooking related items. In lieu of tents, we use "mids.” Mids are packable, lightweight shelters that help reduce pack weight. They are high quality shelters used by mountaineers!
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.
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 and/or the meaning of life. It’s also a time for rest and recuperation.
Phones and other electronics are a big distraction from engaging with the present moment. Most of our students tell us after the trip that not having to engage with an electronic device for several days in a row felt like a big relief, and they are grateful for the experience.
Please note: our Outdoor Educators will have phones for safety and communication, as well as 2-way texting devices and satellite phones for areas where there is no cell phone coverage. We have detailed plans in place for risk management, and risk management communication is performed by our experienced, trained, professional outdoor educators.
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.
Outdoor courses in the wilderness present unique opportunities for students to experience powerful Group dynamics, trust and interpersonal communications are paramount, and learning becomes more acute as they work their way through natural challenges and uncertainties that wilderness trips can present (weather, navigation, cooking, camping, teamwork). Incredible bonds are formed and invaluable life skills are learned as students work through mental, physical, and emotional challenges that may arise during the course. Each student tends to be challenged by different aspects of the trip, so they can also practice giving and receiving support from each other. Students reflect, grow and can then apply that learning to school, home and life in general.
Chadwick’s Outdoor Ed Program gives students opportunities to explore a variety of ecosystems and wilderness areas in California. While subject to change due to weather, conditions, and the needs of the program, here’s where we typically plan to hold our outdoor education programs:
7th Grade - Montana De Oro State Park
8th Grade - Joshua Tree National Park
9th Grade - Los Padres National Forest
10th Grade - A variety of expeditions include trips to various wilderness areas including: The Colorado River, Eastern Sierra, Southern Sierra, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Catalina Island
11th Grade - Domelands Wilderness, Sequoia National Forest in the Southern Sierra
12th Grade - South Sierra Wilderness and Golden Trout Wilderness, Sequoia National Forest and Inyo National Forest