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. 

Program Philosophy

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. As students are challenged physically, emotionally, and intellectually, they are faced with group living and collaborataion challenges and are confronted with challenges as a team.

Specifically, we pursue the following learning objectives in the program:

Students will augment their social development by:

  • Creating and embracing community norms

  • Practicing skillful communication

  • Participating in group decision-making processes

Students will augment their emotional development by:

  • Developing self-awareness

  • Seeking to understand their impact on others

  • Supporting each other’s emotional honesty

Students will augment their ethical development by:

  • Cultivating environmental ethics

  • Taking initiative to meet personal and group goals

  •  Balancing and refining their work ethics

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 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.

The Applied Leadership in the Outdoors (ALO) 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 ALO 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 ALO class also provided students with an opportunity to earn a PE credit.

The Upper School Rock Climbers Toolbox class is also PE-credit class that meets two or three times per week during the winter trimester. As a class meant to present students with physical challenges, technical problems, and rewarding activities, the program is one of our most popular.

Financial assistance is available for most trips and programs. 

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 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. 

Lastly, we offer the Middle School Rock Climbing Club that meets once a week during the winter trimester.

Financial assistance is available for most trips and programs. 





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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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