Beloved local 6th grade camp turns 75

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Photo: Cuyamaca Outdoor School/SDCOE

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego County Office of Education encouraged people to get outside and enjoy nature Wednesday in honor of the Cuyamaca Outdoor School‘s 75th year in operation.

The school camp is the oldest in California.

“Sixth Grade Camp continues to be an unforgettable experience, offering students the opportunity to learn and grow in many ways, get outdoors, and disconnect for a little while,” said Kris Pamintuan, the school’s principal. “We are looking forward to resuming  in-person activities as soon as it’s safe to do so, welcoming students back to camp and continuing the tradition of connecting kids to science and nature.”

In the meantime, Cuyamaca Outdoor School is bringing camp home to students virtually. Cuyamaca Home Edition offers more than 50 videos created by staff, as well as activities and lessons intended to engage students in science and connect them to nature right from their own homes.

“Our staff thought it would be fun to share videos of them out in nature in hopes that it would encourage students and families to connect to nature, as well,” Pamintuan said. “Our goal was to share science and nature with as many people as we can.”

The school also recently began a distance learning program, Virtually Camp Cuyamaca: An Outdoor School Experience. The five-day program is modeled on what students would experience during a week at Cuyamaca Outdoor School.

In the virtual camp, students explore a science and nature curriculum by participating in activities online and outside. Each day, the student experience includes virtual field trips, exploration time activities, evening programs and completing activities in their COS science journal. Additionally, each student receives a COS science kit.

“We are excited about our virtual camp offering and think students will find it fun, engaging, and valuable,” said Dustin Burns, an outdoor education program specialist who has been with COS for 25 years. “It has optional evening activities where students can log in from home and even include their families in listening to stories, singing songs, watching silly staff skits and making s’mores.”

The first group of San Diego sixth-graders and their teachers traveled to Cuyamaca Outdoor School for camp on March 17, 1946.

The experience of spending five days and four nights in the mountains as part of a sixth-grader’s science and social studies lessons was unusual at the time, only being done in a few other places throughout the United States.

Until 2010, SDCOE hosted camp at three sites: Cuyamaca Outdoor School, Camp Fox near Santa Ysabel and Camp Palomar on Palomar Mountain. Now, sixth- grade camp occurs solely at the Cuyamaca site, about an hour east of San Diego.

About 12,000 students attend camp each school year, with up to 432 students participating each week. The program is open to public, charter and private schools.

SDCOE is celebrating Cuyamaca’s anniversary all year, and is encouraging camp alumni to share their memories and learn how they can help more San Diego County students attend. The Office of Education asks those who have attended to send camp stories, photos and journal entries to cuyamaca@sdcoe.net, and to consider joining the nonprofit Outdoor Education Foundation.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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