Classes and Schedules

Our classes focus on the natural sciences, environmental stewardship, and team-building and have been tailored to support the California Science Standards for 5th and 6th grade. Classes are taught by Mission Springs Naturalists with supervisory assistance from chaperones that the school provides. All classes involve some hiking. Class size varies from 15 to 20 depending on the number of students attending that week. Teachers select classes students will participate in.

Sample 4 day/3 night schedule
Sample 3 day/2 night schedule

Classes offered provide teachers an opportunity to tailor their outdoor education experience to better align with their specific teaching goals.

Class list

  • Naturalist 101 (Required)

    This introductory class utilizes team-building activities to introduce the students to Mission Springs, their Naturalist, and hiking group for the week. Emergency procedures and student expectations and guidelines are also discussed.

  • Wild Kingdom

    This class will give students the opportunity to explore and develop their observational skills while learning about animals’ roles in an ecosystem. Students will touch on topics like predator – prey relationships, food chains, and the interconnectedness of animals and their habitat.

  • Branching Out

    This class takes students on a journey through the three ecosystems at Mission Springs. Students will learn what characterizes each ecosystem and identify various plants and trees from each habitat. Students will develop their observational skills, as they use all five senses to explore each ecosystem.

  • Get Growing

    Students will get their hands dirty as they work in our organic teaching garden, learn the importance of composting, and see how food is grown.

  • Aquatic Life

    Students will become aquatic ecologists, conducting several tests to determine the water quality of the local Mission Springs stream. Students will explore concepts such as water conservation, pollution prevention, watersheds, aquatic life and food cycles.

  • Night Hike (Required)

    Students will be guided on an adventure through the trails in the dark, listening to night sounds, learning about night vision and nocturnal creatures, and exploring the night sky. Naturalists encourage students to face their fears by doing a short solo hike without flashlights.

  • Go Green

    Students will learn about environmental stewardship through interactive investigations of energy, renewable and non-renewable resources, recycling and solar energy. Weather permitting, students will get to experiment with our solar equipment and bake a treat in the solar oven.

  • Climbing Tower

    Students will attempt to climb a 40-foot rock wall. Naturalists will instruct students in climbing safety and techniques.

  • Down to Earth

    In this class, students will learn the basic principles of geology and the changes that occur to the earth over time. Students will explore concepts such as soil formation, impacts of erosion, plate tectonics, and the rock cycle.

  • Team Trust

    Team Trust will help to build and strengthen relationships between peers, chaperones and teachers. Students will learn to work as a team as they are challenged by a variety of group games and initiatives. These activities are designed to develop communication and problem solving skills.

  • Orienteering

    In this class, students will learn basic orienteering skills – how to use a compass and map. These skills are vital to navigating in the outdoors. For the final exam, students will have to find their way back to camp using the compass and map.

  • Earth's Systems

    Students will learn about the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere, and how they interact. During this class students will also discuss weather patterns, water, and human impact on Earth’s systems.

  • Engineering

    Students discuss the relationship between the scientific method & engineering design process as they define problems, construct models, carry out tests & assess human impacts while building shelters.

  • Field Trips

    We offer two field trip options for your last activity – Santa Cruz Wharf and Natural Bridges State Beach. Naturalists meet at the site and teach 3 ocean-themed classes:

    Santa Cruz Wharf: Students will observe California Sea Lions and learn more about marine mammal adaptations, collect plankton, and dissect squid

    Natural Bridges State Beach (choose from 6 class options): Wetland Ecology, Sharks, Kelp, Mole Crabs, Monarchs (seasonal Oct-Feb), and Beach Game (an ocean-themed steal-the-bacon inspired game)

    *If choosing a field trip, please make sure your buses or other transportation arrive at Mission Springs no later than 8:30am on your last day to transport students to the field trip site.

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