Seventh grade fall trip details

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Seventh grade families and students –


As you probably know, at Westside School we believe in the value of experiential education: hands-on projects, field trips, service learning, and outdoor experiences all provide opportunities for students to engage in authentic learning. Our curriculum intentionally incorporates several off-campus trips each year, including at least two multi-day adventures that integrate academic learning goals with personal and collaborative growth.

Our trips program provides distinct opportunities for students to take on new challenges, stretch their comfort zone, and develop outdoor skills. Through these adventures, students build confidence, strengthen class unity, practice social awareness and skills, and foster a deep appreciation for the wonders of the outdoors. We strive to help our students cultivate the necessary skills, preparation, and confidence to look forward to a lifetime of outdoor adventures.

Every semester, teachers (and hired guides) work hard to prepare and execute our trips – both in terms of the wilderness adventure components, as well as the curriculum of each trip. Trip curricula include academic, social/emotional, and community building activities, lessons, games, conversations, and reflections that help students to enhance and process their growth, as well as tie their learning back to what is happening at school.

Risk management is a critical component of wilderness trips, and we are constantly evaluating and building up our outdoor program.  I recently attended a Risk Management workshop put on by NOLS (the National Outdoor Leadership School), and came away very proud of the program we’ve built, but also with great ideas for how to continue building upon what we have in place. My work there fed directly into the ongoing development of our program, and I have immense confidence and faith in all our staff – particularly their ability to monitor and care for our students and make good decisions about how to handle any issues that arise.

Our trip staff always has the health and well-being of our students in mind. All of the adults on each trip have current first aid and CPR certifications, and hired guides and several Westside School staff also have Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification. When we participate in activities requiring additional expertise (e.g., rock climbing, river rafting, and sea kayaking), we hire outside organizations to guide and support us. In addition, all trips carry well-equipped first aid kits, and when in the backcountry we take satellite communication devices with us. While accidents and illnesses can and do happen on wilderness adventures, we do our very best to appropriately manage the risks of each trip by working with highly experienced guides, educating and empowering students to make responsible choices, and being well-prepared in terms of both equipment and training.

Below, you will find the gear list for the seventh grade fall trip.

Please note it is NOT necessary to purchase all new gear for your child – many items can be borrowed, rented, and bought discounted or second hand. In addition, all students are welcome to utilize our “Middle School Gear Closet,” which currently includes a few sleeping bags and sleeping pads, a backpacking backpack, many hiking boots, and some long underwear, rain gear, and other clothing items. Feel free to ask me for specifics on what we have to lend, as well as for assistance or recommendations (and of course, new donations are always welcome!) Any family unable to obtain the necessary gear for school trips will be provided with suitable equipment by the school. Please contact me with any questions (

Trips are a vital part of the middle school experience, and as such, we ask that families take trip dates into account when planning student absences from school.

A few important reminders:

  • Please be sure to turn in your child’s medical forms (in particular, the Medication Administration Form) no later than the August 22 due date
  • Students are asked to bring their complete, packed bags in to school on the Wednesday before their trip departs
  • Students must bring a sack lunch for the first day of each trip
  • Parents are asked to drop off their child’s medications (in original containers) with a designated trip leader prior to the trip (trip-specific details will be sent out prior to each trip) 

Seventh grade trip dates, 2014 – 2015

  • Monday – Friday, Sept 8 – 12: Cascades Backpacking
    The seventh grade will spend the week backpacking in the Cascade Mountains near Cle Elum, WA. Trips like this provide a powerful start to the year as small groups of students live, play, and travel together through incredible mountain scenery. This trip provides great opportunities continued outdoor skill development as we filter our water, cook our food, navigate the trail, and make a new home in our tent each night. We’ll see wild animals, explore rivers and lakes, learn to cross streams, play games, and have great adventures.
  • Monday – Friday, May 4 – 8: River Rafting Adventure
    The seventh grade class will venture out of Washington and into northeastern Oregon for a rafting adventure on the Grande Ronde River – we’ll paddle, float, explore, and play our way 40 miles through the river canyons, ending up just south of the Washington border. This trip is a great chance to experience a new landscape and learn a new set of outdoor skills.

We’re looking forward to a year full of great adventures!

 I will be in touch again in early August with more details about the fall trip. In the meantime, please feel free to get in touch about any questions or concerns you may have.

Sarah Harper-Smith Middle School Outdoor Program Coordinator ( & the Middle School Team


Seventh grade fall trip gear list

~~~ Please make sure everything is labeled with your name! ~~~

Synthetic materials vs. Cotton: Synthetics are man-made materials that wick moisture, like sweat or rain, away from your body and keep you warm and dry; wool has the same properties. Cotton is not a good fabric for the outdoors because when it gets wet, it takes a very long time to dry, and it can’t keep you warm while it is wet. Because of this, you should try wear synthetic (fleece, capilene, nylon, and polypropylene, 100% polyester…) or wool clothes on your trip.


  • Unders (comfortable for climbing and hiking in, sports bras recommended if needed)
  • 2-3 pairs wool or synthetic hiking socks (+ 2 pairs liner socks, optional)
  • 1 pair synthetic long underwear bottoms
  • 2 synthetic long underwear tops
  • 1 pair synthetic shorts (athletic shorts work well)
  • 1-2 pairs pants (quick-drying with room for long underwear underneath)
  • 2 short sleeve synthetic shirts
  • 1 fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • Waterproof rain coat and rain pants (vinyl/rubber ones ok, lightweight is preferable)
  • Hiking boots (broken in, waterproof)
  • Bandana
  • Sunglasses & hat (baseball cap or sun hat)
  • Synthetic gloves and hat (warm)
  • Optional: Camp shoes (lightweight sandals, etc.)
  • Optional: Comfortable travel clothes (to wear while driving on Monday & Friday) 


  • Daypack (i.e., school backpack – packed with lunch, water bottle, etc. for the first day)
  • Backpacking backpack (i.e., 45-60L capacity*, capable of carrying clothes, toiletries, sleeping bag + group food/gear for miles on backcountry trails)
  • Mess kit (sandwich-sized Tupperware container w/lid + fork, knife, spoon)
  • 2-3 one-liter water bottles (reusable plastic or metal bottles – may bring hydration pack as extra)
  • Sleeping pad (foam or thermarest style)
  • Sleeping bag (synthetic mummy bag, rated to ~20°F)
  • Headlamp or flashlight (w/new batteries)
  • Optional: Mug for hot drinks (plastic)
  • Optional: Camera
  • Optional: Watch

*The size of your backpacking backpack will depend on the size of your body. The friendly folks at any local outdoor store will be happy to help you find the right size.


  • Basic toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc)
  • If required: Daily and/or emergency medications (amount needed for trip, turned in to WS trip staff before leaving school)
  • Optional: Book, journal, and/or sketchbook


  • Electronics, including cell phones
    (camera & watch are ok)
  • Knives (other than plastic knife for eating)
  • Full-size pillows (travel pillows are ok)
  • Candy stashes (random searches conducted by local raccoons, ravens, and/or bears)