I Am Unbeatable!


“Keep moving!” yells the coach as he runs to stay ahead of the contestants. “Next you need to jump from dot to dot to get across!”

The coach glances back, and the smaller boy is now right on his heels.

“I love me a comeback! I love me a comeback!”

Jump over floor lava. Complete 15 push-ups. The boys have reached their final obstacle. Both rush to their sleeping bags and crash to the floor. They struggle to get their shoes inside. Then finally—ziiiip!

The smaller boy immediately sits up, fists in the air, and declares, “I am unbeatable!”

That was the first of many times the two boys would finish the obstacle course. It was their favorite activity at Compass Rose Journey’s Family Camp Night.

Compass Rose Journey is a public charter school on San Antonio’s East Side, and Family Camp Night was meant to be outside. But rain earlier in the week left the school’s outdoor area a muddy marsh.

That didn’t stop Nature-Based Facilitator LaShanna Farmer from putting on an incredible “outdoor” event in the school building. Throughout the night, families were prepped to spend time in nature. There was a tent-making contest, a star- gazing craft, an animal track scavenger hunt, knot tying, and even archery.

“We wanted families to realize they can spend time together off the couch,” said Principal Myeisha Haywood.

Compass Rose Journey’s STEM curriculum focuses on nature-based, hands-on learning and encourages students to participate in regular outdoor activities for public health. “But how can you tell a kid to go outside more when their families, their parents, aren’t getting outside?” said Haywood. “And that extends to us. How can we tell our students to get outside more when our staff isn’t spending time in nature?”

The school’s leadership planned its first outdoor teacher retreat in the Canyon through Foundation Camp in the fall of 2023. Staff stayed at Linnet’s Wings and enjoyed swimming in Blue Hole, fishing, and canoeing.

The retreat was originally supposed to be just for the staff. “But then we had people say, ‘I want to go, but I don’t have childcare,’” Haywood said. Compass Rose Journey’s leaders decided to allow staff families to attend.

“Then you were able to see, oh this person is a mother, that person is a father—not just Mr. or Mrs. So and So from down the hall,” said Haywood.

They also made the intentional decision not to make the retreat feel like work, but instead about making connections with each other and with nature.

“When we were able to come back onto campus it wasn’t just, oh we have to meet this deadline … The staff really started seeing each other as friends,” Haywood said.



Prioritizing the connection and wellness of its staff is a natural byproduct of a school with a focus on the wellbeing of its students and community.

In the school’s early days, the vision of this East Side San Antonio school was to impact their community through preventative health. Compass Rose Journey brought this vision to life through public-health centered classes and hosting health fairs for the surrounding community. But then COVID happened. Quarantine and isolation happened. And the school needed to make a change to its original vision.

“After COVID, we realized the need we have to meet first is in our students—we had to get them self-regulating,” said Haywood.

Adding nature-based and outdoor classes was a logical step forward in meeting their students’ needs. While the school still holds health fairs and maintains a focus on preventative health care, Compass Rose Journey now works hard to prioritize every need of the students. Haywood said, “One of the shifts we had to embrace was understanding that play is important for kids. We allotted adequate time for outdoor play and learning.”

Compass Rose Journey chose to center its new outdoor classes all around the great state of Texas, reframing their mission “to promote health and wholeness where we live, where we play, and where we go to school, by valuing Texas lands and serving our community.” In the school’s nature classes, students learn things like what flowers and trees are native to Texas, about Texas land preservation, even about the state’s loudest musicians—cicadas.

“One of the best ways to help our kids get regulated is to take them for a walk in our garden,” Haywood shared. “And our fourth graders help upkeep the garden.” The garden is a partner project with Gardopia Gardens, an organization featured in a recent issue of Echoes.

Compass Rose Journey has gone to great lengths to create spaces on campus that get students away from technology and outside more. The school just broke ground on adding more covered outdoor learning spaces. (It doesn’t take long to learn that the Texas sun is no joke.) They also expanded the school garden in December 2023, and the new space will provide even more opportunities for planting, growing, and circles of gratitude (a group activity meant for relationship building).

“We do everything we’re supposed to regarding their education, but now we are focused on more than just that. We concentrate on the whole child,” said Haywood.

Teachers and faculty give a lot of their time and energy to prioritize the wellbeing of every student and his or her family. With 18 years of experience working in education, Haywood understands all too well.“You do have those days when you wonder how you’re going to keep pushing forward,” she said. “Because as a teacher you’re required to be fully present. You never get to turn off.”

Outdoor School and Foundation Camp hope to provide a space where educators can find rest and renewal. Compass Rose Journey is already scheduled to return to the Canyon for another staff retreat in 2024.

“We are so thankful to the Foundation for letting us go out there,” said Haywood. “We left thinking we’re really going to do it this year. We are going to move mountains! We’re going to change lives together as a team!”

Mary Holdsworth Butt’s Thoughts on Camping

“I hope the deer still come up around the cabins at Echo Valley.”

That’s what Mary Holdsworth Butt wrote in 1987 to her granddaughter Deborah Butt, now Deborah Rogers, wife of Foundation President David Rogers. At the same time, Deborah was teaching at a public school in Austin. In 1987, when mail required paper and pen and stamps and the United States Postal Service, Deborah and her grandmother exchanged a series of animated letters about Deborah’s upcoming Outdoor School visit to the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp with her fourth-grade students. Here are a few of the Mrs. Butt’s ideas, each of which shows her deep love for the program:

  • Appoint a [student] committee to go to the office of the State Highway Department—get maps …they could explain the reading of maps to the rest of the class. They might list some of the functions of the Highway Department: What does it cost every year? How is the money spent?
  • Some good arithmetic lessons could grow out of this. As well as the cost/mile of gasoline, oil and tires, they could compare the cost of traveling by car and by bus.
  • You probably have a [student] committee planning the meals… You might make one of Elizabeth Borrego’s cottage cheese and green jello salads. It’s very popular here and one of your mother’s favorite salads.
  • Let’s touch on history: Somewhere along the road [your students] have had to study Indians. You could find out from John Worden on what Indian tribes roamed around the Frio Canyon—and when.
  • I’m sending two or three extra copies of Parks & Wildlife. Perhaps you can find some good articles that you’d like one of your good readers to read to the class. Then they might make a written report on what they have heard about snakes, frogs, lizards, or deer.

In the margins and underneath the signature, “Love, Mamma Two” are Deborah’s hand-written notes.

Read more from this issue

Canyon Chronicles

One family models what it looks like to share the Canyon—and their faith journey—with the next generation.

Simplicity, Trust & Childlike Freedom

The Kang family discovered the antidote to leaving childhood behind—just jump into the river.

De Confianza

Laity Lodge Family Camp's retreat with Austin Voices for Education and Youth allowed families to embrace both the familiar and different.

It's Your House Now

When they were going to condemn her San Antonio house, here's how Olga Escobedo got it back.