By Dawn Delorefice
Special to the Express
Winters Middle School sixth and seventh grade students had the wonderful opportunity to attend outdoor school at camp Sempervirens during the week of Feb. 7 through Feb. 11. Attending outdoor school is something that traditionally our WMS sixth grade classes have participated in for over 35 years and is something that has been carried on through dedicated teachers such as Rebecca Fridae, Patti Warren and other amazing educators dedicated to getting Winters scholars out in nature to experience a week of hands-on learning.
The pandemic made it impossible to keep this tradition going in the 2020-2021 school year. In fact, the pandemic required us to change the outdoor school campus of Camp Loma Mar, that our students and staff have come to know and love. Thankfully, we were able to continue to work with the phenomenal Exploring New Horizon staff that led our Camp Loma Mar adventures so many years before at this new site of camp Sempervirens.
With hopes of making sure this tradition didn’t miss a grade, we set out to take our sixth and seventh grade students to this new outdoor school campus led by the Exploring New Horizon staff. We had 129 students, 22 counselors, and eight teachers attend.
What an amazing week it was! Students spent time exploring habitats at the beach, watching monarch butterflies, exploring tide pools, hiking in the redwoods, adventuring through a creek, taking night hikes, participating in a mock town hall meeting, dancing the night away at Boogie Night, organizing and performing a skit, and so much more. There was a focus on positive attitudes, cooperation, taking a chance and teamwork.
Some students said:
“This has been the best day of my entire life.”
“I didn’t know I didn’t need my cell phone to have fun.”
“This is the best trip. I love being at the beach.”
“The dance was the coolest part!”
When asked why students should attend outdoor school, students responded:
“Everyone should have this experience.”
“This trip helped me believe in myself. Other students need that.”
“It’s so much fun.”
“You make new friends.”
There are so many people to thank for this successful trip. First and foremost, we must thank our amazing Winters community. We had so many generous donations that allowed this trip to be a reality. This is a costly excursion. Between renting buses, paying for our high school counselors, and ensuring we have enough money to offer scholarships for our campers, the fees rack up to extreme amounts.
We are so thankful to live in a community that rallies behind these types of opportunities for our scholars. With the help of Winters Education Foundation grants, Redwood Connect Grant, and individual donor donations, we were able to raise enough money to cover our expenses and offer scholarships to all students who needed them. We are humbled and grateful for the generosity of all who helped make this trip a reality. Thank you so much for your support. The students had an amazing experience and it wouldn’t have been possible without you.
We would also like to thank all of our high school counselors: Aleni Valadez, Angeles Sanchez Duarte, Arturo Montes, Bella Macias, Calista Cardinale, Carmen Barrios Millar, Diego Rodriguez, Emily Aguiar, Esai Garcia, Ethan Demment, Jasmine Jimenez, Joanna Del Toro Mendoza, Jose Martinez Ramirez, Jozlyn Rooney, Kalyssa Grinbergs, Kelxie Suarez Jacobo, Leslie Lopez, Liliana Rodriquez, Melesio Perez Jr., Rylie Schroeder, Shelby Boykin and Victoria Cardenas.
They spent long hours making sure our middle school students had an enjoyable experience. They are the true heroes of this trip and we are so thankful they signed up to take on this amazing challenge. They were complimented with being the most amazing counselors the ENH staff have had the pleasure to work with. We feel so lucky to have been able to work with these students.
More thank you’s go out to our teacher chaperones who attended this trip and helped make wonderful memories for our scholars. Thank you to Cheyenne Powell, our Outdoor School Camp Coordinator, Dr. Jenny Pinedo, our nurses and the health staff for testing all scholars and cabin leaders before our departure and for providing support for this program. And a special thank you to Jill Shugart and the WMS office staff for parent outreach and help to organize this trip.
This is a tradition we plan to continue! We are already making plans to take the 2022-2023 sixth grade class to camp Semperviren next year. Our dates are planned and we will be attending from Feb. 6 through February 10th. If you are interested in helping make this trip a reality, please reach out to Powell (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Shugart (email@example.com) at the WMS office. We are already starting the fundraising process and would gladly accept donations for this trip.
We are looking forward to continuing this Winters tradition. Here’s to many more outdoor school adventures.