Outdoor Education

rock climbing

Our goal is to educate the whole student. That is why Catlin Gabel provides extensive avenues for students to learn and grow outside the classroom in ways that will enhance their emotional, social, and ethical development. Outdoor education is an essential component of this effort.

The program provides opportunities for a variety of interests and levels, including one-day conditioning hikes and urban exploratory walks, and multi-day adventures in rock climbing, river rafting, surfing, sea kayaking, backpacking, and mountain climbing.

Recent trips include a Smith Rock climbing weekend in Central Oregon; a three-day bike trip from Mt. Hood to the Santiam River; rafting trips on the Deschutes and White Salmon Rivers; snowshoe and cross country ski day trips on Mt. Hood; and the Students of Color Affinity Trip at Camp Westwind on the Oregon Coast.

Financial assistance is available for most trips and programs.

For information and questions, please contact Outdoor Education Program Director John Harnetiaux or Assistant Director Lindsay Babbitt.

outdoor education director and assistant director

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Program Philosophy

Experiential Learning and the Outdoor Education Program

Under the guidance of the Catlin Gabel Outdoor Education Program, students are immersed—mind and body—in the natural world.

This natural classroom provides unique opportunities for students to learn and grow as individuals and as members of a community. The program broadens the education of both Middle and Upper School students by fostering their self-awareness, exposing them to new environments and challenges, and providing important leadership opportunities.

Our goal is to offer experiences outside of the classroom that foster intrapersonal and interpersonal development. Upper School programs also place a strong emphasis on providing leadership opportunities. Our activities are vehicles to help students learn about themselves as developing young adults. 

Middle School

The focus of Middle School Outdoor Education trips is to introduce students to the opportunities of human-powered activities and wilderness travel.

We offer a broad range of single- and multi-day trips. From the rapids of the White Salmon River to the summit of Mt. St. Helens, students are encouraged to learn new skills, explore areas outside their comfort zones, care for one another, and form meaningful working relationships with adults. 

Additionally, the outdoor education program offers a year-long curriculum for all Middle School students called "Life Outdoors." Our goals are to have fun by building positive associations with spending time outside and engaging in activities focused on teamwork and ethics. 

We also offer the Middle School Rock Climbing Club that meets once a week during the winter trimester.

Upper School

Outdoor Education in the Upper School focuses on development of group living skills and challenges that expand students’ ability to work in new environments.

More than 20 trips are offered annually ranging from two to seven days. Many of these trips take place during the school year on weekends, and include rafting, climbing, biking, skiing, and hiking. Summer trips are longer, immersive experiences where students learn new outdoor skills and explore group dynamics on trips lasting up to one week, usually in remote wilderness areas.

Recent Outdoor Education Trip Highlights