Ever since Community School founder Sam Hazard declared “Let’s Go Camping!” in the fall of 1973, an Outdoor Program has been an integral part of the school’s culture and curriculum. Though that first camping trip resulted from Sam’s admitted lack of readiness for the school year, his choice set the stage for great things to come. That first trip evolved into the tradition of Fall Campout: a back-to-school backpacking trip that today puts hundreds of Middle and Upper School Cutthroats and faculty into the area’s beautiful wild places to bond, make new friends, and start the year off in a memorable manner.

In addition to Fall Campout, the early years at Community School also offered outdoor program preparation and wilderness survival skills classes. In 1980, the Outdoor Program began to take shape in earnest with trips to Perkins Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains. These excursions ran between early December and May and were designed to build strong relationships between students and faculty, and to teach important skills like winter camping, avalanche hazard identification, navigation, and winter survival. Each trip lasted four days and included 8-13 students.

On the heels of this trip’s success and positive outcomes, the Stanley Campus program was started in 1981 to offer an alternative to the standard school experience. By 1984, “Spring Outs” were also established to give students the opportunity to take trips outside of our local region with faculty members. Destinations included American Samoa, the Washington coast, and Yosemite National Park.

In 1989, a committee was formed to expand on the limitless potential of the Outdoor Program. This generated a structured K-12 curriculum, with overnight trips starting in fifth grade. Longer, overnight trips began in seventh grade when students and faculty ventured to Utah, Washington, and the mountains and rivers of Idaho. Senior Quest, a two-week spring program in Utah designed to serve as a capstone outdoor experience for graduating seniors, was also added at this time.

The Outdoor Leadership Academy (OLA) is the most recent addition to Community School’s standard-setting Outdoor Program. The OLA was established in 2009 in response to many students seeking an “honors level” Outdoor Program. The OLA offers an advanced curriculum designed to teach next-level outdoor skills and instill leadership qualities valuable in the backcountry and other pursuits.

Since 1989, the Outdoor Program has evolved in breadth and depth of curriculum, safety, and experiences. Community School’s commitment to the exploration of wild places has been an essential component in how students learn. The bonds created in the backcountry lead to dynamic, collaborative experiences in the classroom and are a vital component of a Community School education.