Pathfinder K-8


Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education at Pathfinder

Every student at Pathfinder K-8 participates in outdoor education from field trips to camping experiences. The outdoor education trips to provide students with opportunities to explore the natural world around them, and to experience and observe ecosystems, geology, natural history and local geography for themselves, actively learning about these things in ways not possible in the classroom. As they learn about nature they learn how to be stewards and enjoy the outdoors responsibly.

These experiences also allow us to emphasize the importance of creating a supportive and safe community in which people work together as a team. Older students also learn a variety of camping skills. Perhaps most important, our outdoor trips allow students to gain self-esteem, confidence and independence. A 1998 Pew Charitable Trust study showed that children did better in school when they were taken outside the classroom for hands on projects.

Additionally, in the spring of 2010 Pathfinder families designated significant funds at our school auction to develop the Earth Project: “Empowering students to discover their connections to the Earth, themselves, and one another.” The Earth Project (EP) is a collaboration between local non-profit Nature Consortium and Pathfinder teachers, parents, and greater community. This year the EP team will be supporting Pathfinder teachers as they develop environmental science/art curriculum and carry out Earth-based projects.

The Earth Project team is currently working on many projects with the students including: maintaining and expanding the school’s edible and native garden, improving the school’s compost system, going into the greenbelt to learn about it and help restore it, and beginning a worm bin program. Parent/community volunteers are needed and welcomed!

Kindergarten and First Grade

In the Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms, most of the outdoor education involves field trips that are tied to learning expeditions. For example, every two years the classes engage in a thorough unity of study about trees. The field work includes classes at city parks guided by park naturalists. Students have planted trees at Discovery park and pulled ivy at Seward Park. During the K/1 Animal Homes Expedition they explore the beaver dam on Longfellow Creek and the tide pools on the beach across from Mee Kwa Mooks Park. In addition to field work, our first graders have had overnights at Lake Kachess, Denny Creek and, at times, tent camping at our school. 

An important goal for the youngest students is to help connect them to the great outdoors we have right here in West Seattle. They explore the beaches, creeks and parks in order to forge the beginning of a lifelong relationship with nature. 

Second and Third Grade

In late Spring of each year, 2nd and 3rd grade students spend three days and two nights at an established camp, Camp River Ranch in Carnation. Students sleep in cabins, helping to prepare them for the tent camping they will do in 4th and 5th grade. While at camp, students explore and study a variety of habitats, such as stream, wetlands, forest and marine; study groups are led by environmental education counselors. Students also take hikes and go out in rowboats or canoes. Through these experiences, students gain an appreciation for these haitats and begin to become caring stewards of their environment. Through group challenges such as team-building games, skit performances and maintaining their cabins, students strengthen their ability to work as teams. 

Fourth and Fifth Grade

The 4th and 5th grade classes weave outdoor experiences through expeditionary learning, science kits, day field trips and tent camping trips in the fall and spring.

Tent camping trips in the fall and spring rang from 3-5 days and have included places such as: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Deception Pass, the Olympic Peninsula, Grand Coulee Dam & Dry Falls and Blake Island. Through these camping experiences students focus on service learning with rangers, learn to cook and clean tent-style, learn theLeave No Trace outdoor ethics in regard to respecting and taking care of our natural world, community team building with group initiatives and problem solving. 

Outdoor education environmental day experiences have included beach/tidal/local history study at Alki Beach, canoe paddling with the Center for Wooden Boats, salmon study ecosystem release with the City of Seattle. in partnership with Seattle Parks Department, the 4/5th grade students at Pathfinder helped eradicate invasive plants, re-introduce native plants and fight erosion through trail building and maintenance. We will continue our commitment to public spaces by continuing this work on the Seattle Park lands surrounding our building. Outdoor education at the park puts classroom ecosystem, stream study and erosion science learning into action!

Sixth Grade

The whole 6th grade goes to the Goldendale Observatory in a culminating trip for their space expedition. All the students have the chance to look into the big telescope and see Jupiter, Saturn, the Milky Way and more. While in Goldendale, the students stay at an environmental education center where they sleep in cabins and cook their own meals. 

Seventh Grade

7th graders take part in aThink Globally, Act Locally expedition which includes exploration of the local environment. Students observe, inventory and describe the natural world they encounter as well as report on their perceptions of its health and human interactions and impacts.

Eighth Grade

The 8th graders engage in a variety of outdoor activities throughout the year. They take walking field trips in conjunctions with their Rites of Passage class. In the past, they have gone to Alki Beach, Schmitz Park Reserve and Camp Long. Every spring the students take a 10-mile urban hike. One of the culminating activities for the 8th grade expedition on Mt. Everest, Journey to the Roof of the World, is a climbing trip to Little Si.

At the end of every year, the 8th graders go on a 4-day camping trip to the Olympic Peninsula. They spend two nights at Sol Duc and one night on Rialto Beach. They hike to Sol Duc Falls and walk the Cape Flattery trail. They visit the Makah Museum and take a day trip to Forks.