October 2019
Greetings from Principal Greg Schuett:

It’s hard to believe we are already several months into the new school year. We’ve had just over 2,000 students visit us so far, and another 10,000 are expected over the course of the school year.

One of the projects that students participate in at Cuyamaca Outdoor School (COS) is reforestation. Students plant pine trees and oak trees that start with native acorns being grown in the camp’s greenhouse. Lead Outdoor Education Specialist Sharyl Massey has taken this effort to rewild our campus with native vegetation to a new level. She has coordinated the efforts of staff and students to collect acorns, put them in special tubes in our greenhouse and consequently we have more than 700 oak seedlings ready for our students to plant this fall! Over the last 10 years, our students have planted many seedlings on our campus, some of which are now 20-foot-tall trees.

During their stay at camp, students also use journals to document their observations. Those journals will soon have a new look. Outdoor Education Specialists Aaron Melzow and Hannah Campbell are using their graphic art skills to redesign the student journals to have more of a “naturalist field journal” look. We are hoping to inspire our students to practice and enhance their observation, drawing, labeling, and writing skills as they explore nature. You can read a few of our students' writings later in the newsletter.

As we continue to grow and develop our opportunities for students, we are looking forward to some facility upgrades this November. Our Northwind cabin will have some paint layers removed and a blue trim will be added to match Eastwind cabin. It will also get new windows that should help with energy efficiency. Both cabins will also get new floors and lights. All of the upgrades will make the cabins cleaner, safer, and more attractive.

And speaking of attractive, have you been to Rancho Cuyamaca State Park lately? Our students get the chance each week to experience nature and see untouched beauty all around them. For some, it’s their first camping trip, for others it’s their first trip away from home. We know that coming to Cuyamaca Outdoor School is an experience of a lifetime, and we are grateful to everyone that plays a role in getting students to camp.

Greg Schuett
Hundreds Attend Annual Open House
Prior to the start of the 2019-20 school year, Cuyamaca Outdoor School hosted its 24th annual Open House. More than 1,200 students, parents, and community members got the opportunity to visit camp and experience what students get to do during their weeklong trip.

Attendees had the opportunity to tour the campus, including a visit to the cabins, dining hall, science rooms, and assembly halls. In addition to tours, families were able to make a rock craft, go on a guided hike, try rock climbing, and see our live raptors. Food was available in the dining halls and the pool was also opened for the special occasion due to the hot weather.

“The parents and children alike have a universal combination of excitedness and nervousness about their upcoming experience, which is often the child’s first time away from home for four nights,” said Principal Schuett. “It is so heart-warming to see all of the families bustling about our campus.” 

At the first Open House in 1995, the camp had just 100 participants. This year, the guest list topped out at more than 1,200. The reason for starting it – allowing students and families to get a sneak preview of camp – still holds true today.

“Now it’s an annual event that all of our schools and families can count on the Saturday before our first group of students arrive in September,” Schuett said. 
Emergency Preparedness at Cuyamaca Outdoor School
Cuyamaca Outdoor School is well prepared for a variety of emergencies. There is an emergency manual and staff members have annual training to prepare for the possibility of earthquakes, armed intruders, flu epidemics, animal bites, and of course what is on everyone’s mind right now – power outages and wildfires. 

When Santa Ana winds are anticipated, the staff at COS begins preparing for possible emergencies that could result. To stay informed, the team receives emergency alerts from multiple agencies, including East County Emergency, CAL FIRE, San Diego County Office of Emergency Services, and state parks. If the winds are strong enough that SDG&E puts in place a public safety power shutoff (PSPS) or the National Weather Service issues a red flag warning, the following precautionary measures are taken at COS: 

  1. COS’s large generator, which runs on propane gas, automatically kicks into action if the power goes out and will provide electricity to the entire campus. The generator is able to run nonstop for two weeks. 
  2. COS notifies all staff, visiting teachers, the principals of visiting schools, and administrators at SDCOE that COS is under a red flag alert or is under a PSPS. A message is also posted on the COS Facebook page (@CuyamacaOutdoorSchool). 
  3. COS alerts the bus dispatchers that the schools use to transport their students to Cuyamaca to be ready in case they’re needed for early pickup. 
  4. Students have their bags packed so they are prepared for an early departure, if needed. Students are told they are having a den cleanup, not about the red flag alert so we don’t raise their level of concern unnecessarily. 
  5. All staff, students, and teachers remain within a mile of campus. 
  6. All staff carry handheld radios and are asked to keep them turned on. 
  7. COS staff members monitor the weather, CAL FIRE, East County Emergency, and state park fire alerts. 
  8. If there are any fires in the region that could possibly threaten the campus, students will be sent home early. If there is a fire that either blocks both exits on Highway 79 or is too close for buses to arrive in time, students and staff will shelter-in-place in the brick buildings with asphalt shingles and metal doors. COS has consulted with CAL FIRE to determine this is the best option in that situation. They have toured the campus and praised our efforts at fuel reduction and fire preparation.  
  9. In addition, COS has a health center staffed 24 hours a day with a registered nurse and two health technicians. All staff are trained in CPR and First Aid. COS has a fully stocked medical emergency shed and enough food and supplies to last at least two weeks. 

Over the course of its 73-year-history, COS has been and will remain a safe place for students and staff. We will continue to train staff and take all the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety today and for the next 73 years.
COS Teaches and Models Good Sustainability Practices
COS welcomes up to 400 students each week, which gives our staff an incredible opportunity to teach students about environmental sustainability. 

The importance of positive human impact has been deeply embedded in our Next Generation Science Standards-aligned curriculum for the past few years. Our students participate in two citizen science projects each week, learn the importance of “leave no trace” while out on the trails, and study the connections between living systems and humans on our planet.  

The impact that the camp experience has on our students can be long-lasting, and we try to model as many different sustainable practices to help students take this knowledge and inspiration back to their communities. 

Over the past few years, COS has reached 80% solar-power capacity and has re-energized its composting program. More recently, we have partnered with Steve Weihe, recycling specialist with the County of San Diego, to take additional steps toward reducing our impact on the planet. Rich Flammer, who directs Hidden Resources, a sustainability consulting organization, has helped us align our practices more closely with the Food Recovery Hierarchy pyramid (see image), which prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food.

During meal times, our staff encourages students to get the food they need from the kitchen during meals and avoid taking too much food to reduce the amount of food being wasted. We also ensure that the fruit and vegetable scraps in the dining hall kitchen are diverted from the landfill by becoming animal feed. 

Additionally, each week a few students become members of the “Compost Crew” responsible for collecting extra salad and fruit peels at the end of meals, recording the weight of the food collected each meal, and bringing the extra food to our compost bins. This process presents an educational opportunity for all students in the dining hall, reinforcing that food waste can be reduced and even eliminated. 

Using our compost bins as a springboard, we are developing curricular resources to utilize the compost process as a comparative study of decomposition in the natural world and in human systems. We are also expanding our program to include vermicomposting (with worms), as well as vegetable gardening using our finished compost.
Thanks to the incredible collaboration of our staff here at Cuyamaca and the wealth of knowledge provided by Steve and Rich, we are continuing toward our goal: to be a sustainability leader in our community by modeling how to live more lightly on the earth, caring for our resources and our precious planet. 

Outdoor Education Specialist Valerie Cournoyer contributed to this story.
Outdoor Education’s Faith Mitchell Receives Local Council’s President’s Award
Faith Mitchell, program business specialist for Outdoor Education, was recently honored by the Community Campership Council (CCC) with the President’s Award.

The award honors a member of the council’s board who makes a significant impact toward the organization’s mission of making available learning opportunities in a natural setting to children from diverse backgrounds. 

“We feel she is worthy of this honor and are so happy to have recognized her with this award,” said CCC’s past president Vic Enchelmayer. 

Mitchell has worked at the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) for the past five years, the last three in Outdoor Education. She became a board member at CCC when she joined the Outdoor Education team. 

My Place in Nature - Student Observations at Camp
kids at camp on large rock writing in journals
Each week, students at camp take time during their daily hikes to observe their surroundings and write about it in their journals. Check out these outstanding pieces penned by two recent attendees. 

“I chose a rock right against a crippling mountain. I chose this spot because I get the closest view, and a nice, sly breeze. I almost feel like I’m flying, I look down and see the soul of trees. Resting like a deer in the night, the amount of rocks there are is amazing. No one knows how long they’ve been there. They are like good memories; they always stay. As I’m clearing my mind a red-tailed hawk seems to make its way up to the sky, hovering in the sky like a buoy floating in the water.” Luke S. (Oak Valley Middle School)

All Day Adventure by Cathy Ji (Solana Pacific Elementary)

The cool wind drowns out all thoughts.
Sun still shining, ever so hot.
Rocks jut out, not soft.
Places as high as haylofts.
Buckwheat like rust, so red.
Sandwiches we will be fed.
On high ledges we trek,
Sun burning on neck.
Apples for snack we eat,
Dirt clinging to feet.
The ground not so neat
With pebbles and plants alike
Blowing along our hike.

Nestled in a valley they grow,
Plants, they bend so slow.
Winds, some strong, some not
Blow away at rock.
Feet have prints in dirt
Things they also hurt
Like ants and bugs and things on the ground,
They will not be found. 

Humans spread out writing,
Drawing and not fighting.
The moment is peaceful at least,
While they swelter in heat. 

But not for long they do
For Mother Earth will choose
To let the winds blow,
To blow high and low,
So air starts to flow,
To blow and blow and blow. 
Camp for Just $30?
We are still "encouraging students to grow in self-reliance and independence" and teaching students to "help the forest become a better place" but the $30 price tag has risen slightly (it's still worth every penny!). We aren't sure when this old camp program was printed, but we are glad to know that we've stayed true to our mission over the years. Click on the image below to read the full program.
This quarterly newsletter will keep you up-to-date on Cuyamaca Outdoor School:
The Original 6th Grade Camp.