Outdoor Education

The Class of 2017 culminates Westside years with final Outdoor Ed trip

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The Class of 2017 had a fun and successful final Westside School Outdoor Education trip! Students did a great job of helping to make the trip happen – starting with the planning process at school, and culminating with cooking meals, setting up camp and engaging in activities and discussions throughout the week.

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The first destination was the Hummocks Loop Trail, where students saw firsthand the recovery of the Toutle River valley since the 1980 eruption, and enjoyed beautiful views of Mt. St. Helens. While it was raining throughout the hike, everyone still enjoyed beautiful scenery, and appreciated the group of students who taught the rest of the group about the origin of the Hummocks.

There was time for great reflection, games and community time, as well as traditional s’mores around the campfire!

Seventh grade spends week rafting, hiking, and growing

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The class of 2018 rafted for two days and hiked 7.8 miles along the Clackamas River on a five day trip at Milo McIver State Park in Estacada, OR. One of the main focuses of the trip was communication and cooperation; students worked together through team building activities and learning to raft together. Each evening students met by the campfire to review and reflect upon their day and acknowledge each other. The week culminated in a day long rafting experience with class three and four rapids with names such as Hole in the Wall, Box of Fluffy Kittens, and Toilet Bowl. All in all, the trip was an amazing experience for all involved! The seventh grade class was able to mature and grow, and they are now ready to step into the role of being the leaders of Westside School Middle School.

Sixth grade soaks up the sun in Vantage

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The sixth grade traveled to Vantage in central Washington for a week of camping, climbing, hiking and studying of geology. The students had the opportunity to visit Dry Falls as well as Lake Lenore Caves.

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Students climbed a variety of routes on basalt rock formations in Vantage and had the opportunity to rappel as a final culminating challenge.

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Each evening the trail groups would meet to reflect on and savor their new experiences. The educational focus of the trip was studying the mega floods of the ice ages that carved the landscape during several catastrophic flood events.

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Student spent the week looking for evidence of the floods, such as hanging valleys and erratic boulders.

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Everyone on the trip returned to Westside sun kissed, full of energy and new memories and feeling closer as a community.  

Fifth grade explores the Olympic Peninsula

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Last week the fifth grade students braved the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula on a coastal adventure. Students set up base camp at a beautiful recreation area near Port Angeles and groups took turns backpacking for one night in Olympic National Park. They explored tide pools, the Elwha River, and several coastal ecosystems. Students saw deer, bald eagles, seals, and salamanders.

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They smelled skunk cabbage and tasted salal leaves, touched whale bones and witnessed the effects of dam removal. Students reflected nightly in their journals where they also completed mind and event maps, collaborative poems, and letters of gratitude and appreciation.

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Upon returning to the classroom, they were ready to share stories and discover how each person experienced the trip in their own distinct way.

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Everyone is so happy to be home, showered and dry, but it was a wonderful experience camping on the beautiful coast!

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Eighth grade students Kate and Sophia reflect on their experiences as part of 35th Celebration

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In anticipation of our 35th Celebration, we’ve asked some of our eighth grade students to share their Westside Story. Westside School is what it is today because of 35 years of stories. We’d love to hear yours.

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A favorite part of my Westside School experience has been being able to go on the annual fall and spring Outdoor Education trips.  Although, in the moment, I thought the fifth and sixth grade trips were not fun, I look back on all the memories and friendships I made on those trips. In seventh and eighth grade, I began to appreciate the trips more than I did when I was younger. I began to realize how grateful I am to be able to go to a school that gives students like me the opportunity to go on these trips.

Shared by Kate, Class of 2017

I have been at Westside School for nine years. During that time we have changed buildings twice, just as frequently as I have learned from my mistakes. During that time I have developed a lasting relationship with my planner, just as I have with countless classmates. Over the years a number of lessons have been taught to me by many amazing teachers, who were just as influential to me as the leaders that have been here while I have. During these past nine years I have gained essential and extremely beneficial life skills that will take me through high school. Thank you, Westside School, you have made me a much more grateful, articulate, and (typically) understanding person.

Shared by Sophia, Class of 2017

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35 Years of Westside Stories…a look back at river rafting, teacher relationships, and a community of friends

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In anticipation of our 35th Celebration, we’ve asked some of our eighth grade students to share their Westside Story. Westside School is what it is today because of 35 years of stories. We’d love to hear yours.

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My favorite part of Westside School since coming here in seventh grade are the trips. During the spring of our seventh grade year, we went river rafting. For me, that was my first time going rafting, and I was definitely nervous. During the first time in the river our raft group had lots of fun. On the raft there were people I hadn’t really hung out with during the school year. While on the raft, we went through some rapids that were pretty scary, but we worked together to get through them. At one point during our rafting we created a story where we had one person ride in the front of the boat and we re-created George Washington crossing the Delaware. Our story brought everyone on the raft closer. It wasn’t just the story that brought us together, though, at one point we started singing, and if I remember correctly it was the song, “Watch Me”, a popular dance during that time. We sang as we worked together to move our raft, and being the ones in the front while racing another raft made us work even harder. At the end of the day I think we all got closer to each other than we were before. Maybe we didn’t become close friends, but we did become closer classmates. That day I felt glad to have come to Westside and experience that bond.

Shared by a member of the Class of 2017

I began my time at Westside School when I was ten years old. At that time, it was a very different place and it has been interesting to see it change and evolve into the school it is today. I feel as though every camping trip has brought new experiences and skills to the class, and I have loved my time here. I found the community was very friendly and supportive when I arrived as a new student. It was more academically challenging compared to my old school and this pushed me into working harder. I am thankful to have been able to attend Westside School for almost five years.

Shared by Emma, Class of 2017

I have been at Westside School  for nine years. During that time, I have met so many people. One thing I like is how everyone knows each other. Some people I have known for almost ten years, so it will be hard to leave everyone when I graduate. I also like how well the teachers know us. It helps to know the teachers well because they can tell you specifically what you should do. I am happy with the community at Westside School, and I will be sad to leave it.

Shared by a member of the Class of 2017

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The worthy endeavors of Outdoor Education

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We choose to start each academic year with trips not because it’s easy, but because it is a worthy endeavor. By spending our first full week of school out on trips, we send a powerful message to ourselves, our students, and our community about what we value.

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We value community – trips make it easy for the ‘new kid’ to become just another member of the class much more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

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We value connection – trips provide opportunities for teachers and students alike to share new, often challenging experiences.

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While teachers are often perceived as ‘experts,’ trips in particular provide opportunities for teachers to show that they, too, are also learners.

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We value the development of a sense of place – throughout Middle School, our students explore and experience a wide variety of local environments and outdoor pursuits, from Mt. Rainier to the Salish Sea.

This fall, our fifth grade students explored Mt. Rainier, including visiting Paradise and the Grove of the Patriarchs.

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Our sixth grade students learned to rock climb and went hiking in the North Cascades, our seventh grade students backpacked to a variety of alpine lakes, and eighth grade students enjoyed team building and sea kayaking at Camp Orkila!

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Sarah Path, Director of Outdoor Education