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).

 

Student hiking
Students rock climbing

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.

Student smiling outside while holding a bug

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).

 

Colleen McCullagh

Colleen McCullagh

Director of Outdoor and Experiential Learning, Pandemic Response Coordinator