An Outdoor Education
San Francisco Waldorf High School integrates outdoor education into the curriculum in innovative and exceptional ways, taking advantage of the region's rich biodiversity, natural wonders, and human resources for student learning and growth.
Students get outdoors for academic study
Science students explore geologic formations in local parks; humanities students write poetry on the beach; architecture students tour City structures that are on the cutting-edge of sustainable design. Across the years, teachers take advantage of local resources to inspire student engagement, creativity, and learning.
Students cultivate gardens and restore habitat
Students work with their hands in gardening and habitat restoration classes, courses that complement the science curriculum and provide first-hand understanding of native plant habitats and the cycles of nature.
Students take wilderness trips
The school is known for its overnight, curriculum-based outdoor education trips. Classes hike, kayak, camp, and explore California wilderness areas while studying astronomy, geology, and botany. Students have opportunities to challenge themselves in the outdoors and develop lasting connections to the natural world.
Students get into nature for physical education
Students may elect to take innovative outdoor education offerings within the physical education department. Courses include backpacking, beginner rock climbing, disc golf, and birdwatching—all held during the school day in local natural areas.
- Sierra Nevada Field Study: 9th Grade
- SF Bay Area Field Study: 10th Grade
- Mount Lassen Field Study: 11th Grade
- Senior Quest
- Final Adventure: 12th Grade
- Summer: Range of Light Leadership Adventure Course
Theme: Ice and Stone. Ninth graders spend a week in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on a winter adventure. As a part of the Idealism and Humanities Main Lesson Block, the students work on class projects as they live and work together, and explore the meaning of community. They also explore the area on foot, snowshoe, and cross country skis to learn about the regional geology, ecology, and the local Miwok Indian culture. The students are immersed through role-play in the infamous debate over the creation of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and the dynamics of natural resource management. (Not to mention time spent constructing snowmen and sipping hot cocoa by the fire.)
The tenth graders spend two nights camping in the beautiful China Camp State Park and take a two-night sea kayak expedition to Angel Island. During the trips, the students visit the Bay Model, enjoy an interactive wind power lesson at the Treasure Island Sailing Center, explore Angel Island (including a visit to the immigration museum), and try their hand at sea kayaking and sailing. This experience, coupled with the 10th grade Meteorology Main Lesson Block, helps students deepen their relationship with the wonderful Bay Area home which we call home.
Theme: Fire and Light
At Mount Lassen, an Astronomy class comes to life! This trip traditionally begins the eleventh grade year as the students come together to reflect on the transition into their role as upperclassmen. They spend time exploring the history and transformative power of the area’s volcanoes and wildfires, as well as beginning their Astronomy Main Lesson Block with eyes gazed upwards at the mesmerizing Lassen night sky.
Theme: Rivers and Roads
The Senior Trip provides an opportunity for the class to share one last common experience. It is designed to provide opportunities for group bonding, reflection, and physical challenge as they look forward to life after high school. The trip provides this opportunity by immersing the students in nature, providing common group challenge, and providing opportunity for play and reflection.
Trips vary from class to class. Upcoming plans call for an eight day exploration of areas in Northern California which are thought of in many circles to be places of particular power and mystery. The adventure begins in the Mt. Shasta area with guided exploration of the area’s many beautiful and mystical features. Students participate in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony with Sparrowhawk, a local Native American. The trip culminates with a 4-day wilderness style raft trip down the Wild and Scenic Lower Klamath River. The river provides a perfect setting for the students to reflect on their years together and on the many divergent paths that their own rivers will soon be taking them.
This summer course is offered Outdoor Education Coordinator Luke Barbee. The ten-day journey into the Yosemite wilderness gives students the chance to connect with nature while applying leadership/team building skills and learning backpacking techniques. It is also an awe-inspiring study of John Muir’s history in the valley.
A highlight of the Pacific Rim block is a morning at Ocean Beach. Students establish a comfortable place from which to view the Pacific Ocean - its wave patterns (often a high tide in the fall) and the sky above. They sketch their own version of the water and environment and take notes on what thoughts and feelings it brings them. These notes are then turned into original poems, done with Leslie Marmon Silko’s poem, ‘Prayer to the Pacific,’ in mind.
Outdoor Classroom Initiative
The Outdoor Classroom Initiative is designed to extend the curriculum beyond the school walls into the wilds of the Bay Area and beyond. The initiative is run by a committee of parents, staff, faculty and board members who have unique expertise in ecology, urbanism, and nature education. Learn more about this unique program here.