Outdoor Education

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 and is integrated into the curriculum from 1st through 12th grades.

Adventure Trip Philosophy

Adventure Trip Philosophy

Experiential Learning and the Outdoor Education Program

Traditionally, experiential education is defined by “hands-on learning" or “learning by doing." 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 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.

Outdoor education adventure trips are at the core of our mission.

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 In the Upper School, our goal is to offer experiences outside of the classroom for personal challenges and interpersonal development. Upper School adventure trips also place a strong emphasis on providing leadership opportunities. Our activities are vehicles to help students learn about themselves as developing young adults. As students are challenged both physically and intellectually, they are faced with group living and cooperation challenges and are confronted with challenges as a team.

Concurrent with the multitude of outdoor education program trips, we offer a number of special activities and curricula.

The Outdoor Leadership and Activities (OLA) after-school program provides students from the Upper School with a chance to participate in outdoor challenge, adventure, and personal growth activities on a regular basis. Meeting twice per week during the autumn trimester, the OLA group experiences adventures both on and off campus, exploring Forest Park, kayaking on the Willamette, and taking part in the greater outdoor opportunities close to our home.

The Upper School rock climbing PE credit and Middle School Rock Climbing Club are groups that meet two or three times per week during the winter trimester. In a cross-divisional setting, presenting students with physical challenges and rewarding activities, the program is one of our most popular.

The outdoor education program has developed a year-long curriculum for the students in the 6th grade. Our goals are to have fun outside by building positive associations with nature, helping the group bond as 6th graders, assisting in providing an introduction to the Middle School, recognizing the outdoors as an important component of the Middle School program, and building basic outdoor skills in preparation for future trips.

Upper School

Outdoor education in the Upper School focuses on teaching group living skills and providing students with challenges that expand their 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 an excellent way for students to leave their cares behind and dive in to a new environment, learn new skills, and meet new people. Upper School students may also choose an after-school outdoor adventure course and a rock climbing course for P.E. credit. Financial assistance is available for trips.

Middle School

Many weekend trips are available to Middle School students during the year, ranging from rock climbing to rafting to hiking. Adventurous summer trips are offered in June and July as well. These trips are led by experienced adults who have led trips in the wilderness for years. Outdoor education is part of the 6th grade curriculum during the school year. Students learn about the geography of the state, how to take care of themselves in the woods, and basic camping and backpacking skills.

Lower School

Outdoor education begins with our youngest students closely observing nature—drawing insects and plants, writing poetry about trees and rain, and respectfully building creations using stones, leaves, and sticks. Field trips are embedded throughout the Lower School curriculum as a way to build a love and understanding of the outdoors. Students hike, follow the water cycle from Portland's headwaters to the Bull Run reservoir, watch birds, and learn about the salmon cycle. First graders have their first class overnight camped in tents on the field next to the Lower School building.





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An independent preschool through 12th grade day school in Portland, Oregon
8825 SW Barnes Road,
Portland, Oregon 97225 |
503-297-1894 |

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