Outdoor Education


The mission of the Dunn School Outdoor Education Program is to provide members of the Dunn community with the required knowledge, confidence, and experience to ignite an interest in outdoor recreation on a personal level, develop a sense of stewardship towards the natural world, and build meaningful relationships with classmates, faculty and staff in challenging, outdoor environments.  


Learning Outcomes

We accomplish these goals by focusing on three specific learning outcomes on each trip. First, we utilize a building block approach to outdoor living skills so that introductory skills learned freshman or sophomore year - such as basic shelter, first aid, and basecamping skills - contribute directly to more advanced skills by junior and senior year, such as orienteering and water filtration.  Second, students should walk away from each trip location with a developed sense of place - they should be able to identify local flora and fauna, describe the rich ecology and geology, and appreciate the indigenous ways of life which thrived prior to our arrival.  Third, we emphasize the evening meeting as a sacred ritual through which we reflect on our core values, such as human strength and weakness, virtue and vice, and overall interpersonal team dynamics.  


Progression by Grade

Fortunately, Dunn students have a wide variety of outdoor education opportunities and activities to choose from.  Each year, we continue to send out all students on mandatory, grade-level trips along with faculty and staff.  For example, the freshmen open their high school experience at Dunn with a basecamping experience in the Los Padres National Forest prior to the start of school.    The sophomores travel by ferry to the Channel Islands for a week of basecamping, hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling while also spending a day restoring local habitats with a local non-profit organization.  The juniors spend a week in the California desert rock climbing and backpacking.  And the seniors culminate their outdoor education experience at Dunn with a week of backpacking in the pristine backcountry of Yosemite National Park.  


Mini-Terms | Enrichments | Residential Life

Throughout the year, we also offer more technical outdoor learning opportunities to motivated students seeking additional experience and challenge during our mini-term and enrichment weeks, which are essentially blocks of time outside the traditional academic schedule to pursue meaningful experiential learning activities.  For example, students have participated in expeditions to Big Sur and Death Valley, earned scuba certifications here on the coast, spent a week surfing outside of San Diego, and learned to ski, cross-country ski, snowboard, and snowshoe at Northstar.  

On weekends, we partner with the Los Padres Forest Association and Sedgwick Reserve to conduct trail maintenance outings and frequently take students on local day hikes, stand-up paddleboard lessons, surf outings, and even overnight backpacking trips in the Los Padres.  We also utilize the Dunn School Indoor Climbing Wall on a regular basis for day and boarding students alike.

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