Outdoor School 2018

Outdoor School hosted 16 schools, serving a total of 1,608 students this year.

Just last December, Echo Valley hosted Outdoor School’s largest group to date.

The group of over 150 students came from Fox Tech High School out of San Antonio. Erik Silvius, Outdoor School’s senior director, says the Fox Tech faculty took a deeper dive this year in their willingness to take ownership of their retreat activities. They tried a few activities atypical of most Outdoor School retreats, like nature-based poetry, fire-building, and some basic first aid skills.

Fox Tech was just one of 16 schools hosted by Outdoor School, which saw a total of 1,608 students served by its program.

The students do a wide range of educational activities at retreats—water studies, geocaching, learning to canoe or ride a bike—but the deepest and most memorable learning is social, relational.

“We got to watch this one teenager who had been really quiet climb up the Alpine Tower, then come down and promptly open up to his peers,” says Erik. “Another group was being really negative with each other until their principal took a risk and climbed the tower—they rallied together to cheer her on.” These moments can be breakthroughs for kids and students alike, he says—experiences that teach them about how valued and full of potential they really are.

Outdoor School also made a point of visiting several schools who participate in the program. They dedicated a day to visiting every elementary school in Seguin, meeting the students who would soon come to the Canyon, and they took part in Tivy High School’s career day, introducing Kerrville high schoolers to the idea of jobs in the field of recreation.

“The hard skills necessary for the safe delivery of adventure recreation activities are only half of the equation,” Erik says. “We have to truly love the kids that we welcome to the Canyon.”