Experiential Education

At Westside, 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.

There may not be worksheets involved, but there’s math in planting a garden. We’re not reading from a textbook, but we’re learning cultural and natural history on the coast. No beakers or goggles, but there is so much science in nature. To top it off, research says that spending time in nature leads to more confident, more responsible, and more creative students.

For questions, please contact our Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning Coordinator, Colleen McCullagh (colleenm@westsideschool.org).


3rd Grade Camp Sealth Adventure

This specially crafted, one-night outdoor adventure focuses on teambuilding, supported self-management, movement, exploration, and of course - fun! This overnight trip is designed to introduce students to Westside's outdoor program so that they are prepared for longer trips in 4th grade and beyond. We intentionally go to a physically close location, stay for only one night, and meet regularly for trip orientation and prep.

Camp Sealth is a respected and longstanding program in experiential education with a 400-acre waterfront campus. Their outdoor educators join Westside staff for lessons and activities on marine and forest ecology, outdoor living skills, team building challenge courses, and more.


4th Grade Islandwood Overnight Trip

The fourth grade trip to Islandwood has become a rite of passage here at Westside School. Islandwood is a highly regarded school that serves as a model for environmental learning programs nationwide. Students are part of small learning ‘field groups’ as they explore the beautiful and extensive campus through classes that promote sustainability, stewardship, and environmental inquisition. In addition to science classes, groups participate in teamwork challenges, community-building exercises, and fun games.

Highlights include:

  • The Suspension Bridge
  • Climbing the Canopy Tower
  • Examining Macro Invertebrates
  • Night Hikes
  • Solo Walks
  • Edible Garden Tasting
  • Tree House at the Bog
  • Science and Exploration at Blakely Harbor
  • Nightly Reflections
  • Evening Singalongs
  • Talent Show


Outdoor Education in Middle School

In Middle School, 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 Outdoor Education 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 hope these experiences will spark a lifetime pursuit of safe, ecologically responsible, fun-filled outdoor adventures in our students. To support students best, trips are led jointly by Westside School staff in collaboration with local wilderness adventure guides. All trips have leaders certified in CPR and Wilderness First Aid (at a minimum).

"These experiences are unique and take a lot of planning, and also provide tremendous growth opportunities as they are outside of the day-to-day activities. We feel lucky to have a school that sees and values the tremendous impact and is willing to go the extra mile to provide these experiences in a setting among their peer group. Really a unique situation!" - Westside Parent"I think it’s wonderful the students get the opportunity to discover the great outdoors and bond with other students and staff outside the classroom. I think this is especially important the last year due to COVID. Experiential learning develops confidence, trust and builds teamwork as well as a healthy respect for our environment and Mother Nature." - Westside Parent