Outdoor Lessons: Middle Schoolers Start School with Camping Trip

Below a canopy of towering redwoods, some 40 middle school students gathered recently for an annual Mount Madonna School (MMS) tradition: a four-day outdoor kick-off to the school year – complete with tents, friends and the wafting smell of campfires.

This trip for sixth through eighth graders incorporated hiking, swimming, team-building activities and camping at Portola Redwoods State Park.

The transition from summer to classroom can be rather abrupt. This trip – designed to be at least 75% fun – provides just the right kind of buffer from carefree summer afternoons to school responsibilities.

New and returning students and adult chaperones share an equal footing in the setting of a magnificent state park, where they combine the frolic of creeks and cooperative games with the wonders of identifying flora, fauna and celestial bodies, and the task of feeding 60 hungry people three meals each day. As a result, hidden strengths emerge, friendships are formed and renewed, and adolescents and adults live, work and play together.

When the group shows up for classes back at school the following week, there is more of a family feel on campus from having shared this experience.

Mount Madonna School supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The school offers a well-rounded academic program that meets the highest standards of college preparedness, an exceptional performing arts program, athletics, visual arts and philosophy classes. The travel-study program provides academic enrichment, opportunities for leadership, self-discipline, reflection and critical thinking.

While MMS is highly successful in terms of the universities that its graduates attend, the school’s definition of success is not limited to this accomplishment, and also includes how prepared its graduates are to achieve their goals and work effectively with others in service to society.



Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 380 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.

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