Just a few weeks ago, Rancho Santa Fe middle schoolers attended a weeklong camp at the Pali Institute for the first time. Over 200 sixth, seventh and eighth graders opted to go to the camp at Pali.
In the past, the middle schoolers attended Camp Marston in Julian. This year, Principal Garrett Corduan had an alternative suggestion. The Pali Institute camp had been successful at his previous school district in Murrieta.
“It really united us as a middle school,” said eighth-grader Noah Alewal. “It brought us all together.”
The campers stayed in cabins and slept on bunk beds, sharing two bathrooms. They were challenged to take three-minute showers, which were lessons in time management and strategy, as well as water conversation in consideration of the drought.
The Institute, situated in the San Bernardino Mountains, describes itself as an outdoor education school and science camp facility. Their mission is “to introduce experiential education to young people by providing progressive learning experiences that extend far beyond classroom walls.”
Students who attend are expected to have an increased understanding of relevant science concepts, increased personal growth, and increased awareness of group dynamics.
The facility, which also claims to “bring textbooks to life”, is situated in a convenient location just minutes from Lake Arrowhead and 90 minutes from LA, Orange County, and San Diego County.
Rancho Santa Fe School District Trustee Marti Ritto reported at the November 6th board meeting that her daughter had attended both camps, and that this year’s camp was not only fun, but “a lot more school.” This was good news to the board.
For the Rancho Santa Fe sixth and seventh-graders, the focus of camp was on outdoor education and science. Seventh-grader Charlie Mossy said they got to observe toads and turtles, as well as do a dissection of a squid. Eighth graders experienced an additional emphasis on leadership.
All campers had the opportunity to learn about topics such as ecology and geology. They learned outdoor skills, went on hikes, and even tried archery.
Sixth-grader Claire Jiang talked about how students were tasked with building a shelter as part of the outdoor skills curriculum. Campers worked together to figure out how to build it. Claire’s shelter ended up including a place to sit and a footrest. They had so much extra time, they even built a “guest house.”
All campers were challenged by the camp’s ropes course. Eighth-graders got to do a 700-foot quad zip line.
“At first I was really scared. You really had to overcome any fear you had and take a risk,” Janna said.
Many of the campers suggested that the ropes course was their favorite activity. “It wasn’t all adults that supported you – kids had to volunteer to help you,” said student Luca. “You had to build dependence on other people. You had to build trust.”
Several students said that they would not only suggest camps to friends next year, but they would also go a second time.
Almost certainly, Pali camp was a hit amongst the middle schoolers, who learned a lot while having fun with fellow students.