March 2019
Greetings from Principal Greg Schuett:

This has been a very exciting and successful year so far at Cuyamaca Outdoor School! After saying farewell to nine of our long-time employees who retired after decades of creating “once in a lifetime experiences” for our students, we have hired more staff this year than in the previous five years combined. We currently have 56 full-time employees as well as 15 on-call substitutes to help make camp the best experience possible for our students. There is a lot of positive, new energy buzzing around our campus to complement our experienced, veteran staff members. 

For the first time in Cuyamaca’s history, we have a vice principal! Kris Pamintuan joined our team in August after being a leader in outdoor education programs in Orange and Sacramento counties. She has been a terrific addition to our team (see below for more on Kris). We are also thrilled to be continuing with the camp counselor intern positions that we created last year. We now have a camp counselor and specialist in every cabin who are present from the time students wake up to the time they go to bed. We have noticed that student homesickness and discipline issues have decreased because of our energetic, enthusiastic, and caring camp counselors engaging with students throughout the day. 

We are on track to serve approximately 12,000 students from 125 schools over 35 weeks this school year. Next year’s schedule is almost complete, and we expect to duplicate these numbers. Most of our schools are from San Diego County but this year we served Hardy Brown College Prep from San Bernardino County for the first time, and some of our returning schools are from Imperial and Orange counties. We also have several local first-timers: Bella Mente Academy from Vista will visit in April and 5th-graders from Stuart Mesa, located on Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, will be at camp in June.

We’ve had more rain and snow this year than in any year in the past decade. Students this spring will be delighted to see the beautiful streams, waterfalls, and ponds resulting from this winter’s deluge on their all-day adventure. Students will hike up to six miles with their leader in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park where they will cross a gurgling creek, dip their toes in a tranquil pond, and have lunch while listening to the rush of a 15-foot waterfall.

The trees and aquifers are rejoicing, but I must say, we are looking forward to some spring sunshine and a big wildflower bloom!

Onward and Upward!
Greg Schuett
Students Become Scientists at Cuyamaca Outdoor School 
The lesson starts with this question for students: “What does a scientist look like?” 

Students often respond by saying a scientist is someone in a lab coat with crazy white hair holding a beaker. But the citizen science projects at the San Diego County Office of Education’s Cuyamaca Outdoor School show students that they, too, can be scientists. 

Each week, students participate in two projects where they have the opportunity to research, observe, collect, and analyze data. In some cases, the students' work is provided to scientists collecting data. 

“They are usually shocked to learn that someone would value data they collect,” said Sharyl Massey, lead outdoor education specialist. “So, we want them to realize that they can make a difference by being a citizen scientist."

During these projects, students learn several Next Generation Science Standards crosscutting concepts — concepts that can be applied across all domains of science — including patterns, structure and function, cause and effect, and stability and change. The goal is for students to take what they learn from these projects and apply them to their science lessons when they return home.

“The hope with these projects is that students believe they can be scientists,” said Massey. “We want them to learn that science is way more than chemistry and they can actually help science by being a citizen scientist." 

Most students at Cuyamaca Outdoor School participate in eBird and the Goldspotted Oak Borer (GSOB) projects.

The  eBird project  asks students to identify and count birds in different locations, and submit the data to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology eBird database. eBird collects data from birdwatchers around the world and documents bird distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends.

The Goldspotted Oak Borer (GSOB) has been killing oak trees for more than a decade and scientists have been mapping its destruction, including in San Diego County. As part of the project, students examine trees, looking for infestation, and draw their observations in journals. Then they discuss the impact on the overall environment.
One student from Grant K-8 enjoyed both projects on her recent trip to Cuyamaca.

“It was neat to learn about the different bird species that were in my notebook, and I didn’t know anything about the GSOB. It was fun to learn about something new,” she said.

In addition to the formal projects, students also help with reforestation by planting pine trees and oak trees that start with native acorns being grown in the camp’s greenhouse. 

Finding Their Footing at Camp Cuyamaca
A host of new employees joined the Cuyamaca Outdoor School staff in September 2018 after several veterans retired. One of those new employees is Vice Principal Kris Pamintuan, who developed a deep love of nature and appreciation for the environment while growing up in Colorado. Along with her love of nature, she brings more than 20 years of experience teaching students about the great outdoors.

"What I hope students take away from outdoor school is a newfound appreciation for nature, a sense of wonder, the realization that science is fun, and that they can do science!"

Pamintuan served in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps in Southern California and in Boise, Idaho, before joining the outdoor education team at the Orange County Department of Education. After 16 years as program director, Pamintuan moved to Placerville to serve as director for the Sly Park Environmental Education Center at the Sacramento County Office of Education. When the opportunity became available to join the Cuyamaca Outdoor School team, she jumped at the chance.

“I’ve known Principal Greg for many years and was thrilled to have the opportunity to join his staff and have him as a mentor,” she said. 

Pamintuan joins this new group of enthusiastic educators and workers to create a memorable experience for all Cuyamaca campers: Alex Brito, outdoor education specialist; Holly Ellis, outdoor education program assistant; Emelie Traub, outdoor education specialist; Kevin Gross, maintenance; Dave Johnson, health services technician; Abby Van Artsdalen, outdoor education specialist; and Detta Gentry, cook. 
High School Student Documenting Camp Cuyamaca Past and Present
Poway High School student Brendan Trachsel is an outdoor enthusiast and history lover who has embarked on a volunteer project to document the historic past of Camp Cuyamaca, the long-time home of Cuyamaca Outdoor School. The senior is interviewing current staff, reviewing historic information, and gathering data about the current function of the camp. He hopes to complete his report by May, which will include documents, images, and audio, and share it with others around the county. After graduation, Brendan will be studying outdoor recreation management with an emphasis on outdoor education and leadership at Northern Arizona University. Here is a glimpse at why he pursued this project and what he has learned so far. 

Q: How did this project idea come about? Why did you select Camp Cuyamaca?
A: I was first interested about 1.5 years ago when I was at a retreat for a school club at Camp Fox. I was in Pumala Lodge where there were pictures of some people I had never heard of - one of which was Denver C. Fox, with the title of principal. All I thought was "How could there be a principal of an outdoor school?" The project didn't come to plan until a year later - this past summer - when I revisited the camp for another retreat and my curiosity came right back. Since then, it's just been down the rabbit hole! I selected Camp Cuyamaca for this project because it was the camp I went to in 6th grade.

Q: What were your first steps for getting this project started?
A: Honestly, I had no idea where to start with this. I first messaged the San Diego County Outdoor Education Foundation on Facebook, where I came into contact with Mike [Watson]. He directed me to a book called Classroom Out-of-Doors, written by Wilbur Schramm. He is a researcher who, for the Kellogg Foundation, went to Cuyamaca, Palomar, and Marston to observe and document camp in 1969. Eventually, I connected with Dustin [Burns], leading to the privilege of being able to connect with much of the Cuyamaca Outdoor School staff.

Q: What has been your favorite part of the project so far?
A: My favorite part of this project so far would definitely be going up to Cuyamaca Outdoor School to talk to Greg [Schuett], Susanne [Beattie], Ernie [Ludwig], and Doug [Connor]. They were very excited to talk and have been very supportive throughout this entire process. The majority of things about camp are not written down, so talking to them allowed me to learn a lot! They are all full of information, and it was great to be able to pick their brains for a few hours. I will not forget being able to talk to Ernie, who was my 6th-grade cabin counselor again after six years!

Q: Have you uncovered anything unexpected?
A: One fact I found super interesting was Ernie Ludwig’s story of getting hired: He learned of the camp while on jury duty when he met a nurse that worked at Cuyamaca. Months later, when driving on Highway 79 to the desert, he saw the sign for the camp and made the connection. He decided to stop by and walked into the office. There were two boys in trouble for fighting who both only spoke Spanish. None of the staff could speak Spanish, but Ernie could. They asked him to talk to them, and he did. Once the ordeal was over and [after] some conversation, he was offered a job, which led to his 31-year career (Ludwig retired last year). I find it incredible for someone to find their passion in such a coincidental way.

Q: What are your memories of camp? 
A: I remember Ernie being a huge character. I remember him making us feel as if being in Desertwind was something to be proud of, like a brotherhood. The night hike was also something incredible to be a part of. When I left Cuyamaca [last month] after talking to everyone, the kids were on their way out to their own night hikes, which brought back a lot of memories.
My Place in Nature — Student Observations at Camp
Each week, students at camp take time during their daily hikes to observe their surroundings and write about it in their journals. From snow and waterfalls to birds and wind, here is a sampling of what students experience at camp.

“I felt closest to nature during the night hike because everything was so dark and quiet. I could hear the rustle of the trees.”

“Really quiet and peaceful. Every time the wind blows it looks like the plants in the water are dancing. Waterfall is loud enough to hear from afar. A lot of rocks to sit on — perfect for having a picnic.”

“The sound of water relaxes me as it flows. The cold gust of wind lets me know it’s going to rain. The rustle of bushes makes it feel like nature. The water calms me as I breathe in and out. The wind blows softly in my face. It feels like nature.”

"I enjoyed sledding on the snow, especially when I did it with my friends.”

“I saw today the wind picked up very quietly and the trees and rain were moving side to side very rapidly. On Tuesday afternoon, we went bird watching. Some birds we saw were the Steller’s jay, acorn woodpecker, American crows, and many others.” 
This quarterly newsletter will keep you up-to-date on Cuyamaca Outdoor School:
The Original 6th Grade Camp