Every year, groups of Burke’s students disappear for days at a time, heading off to a variety of locations all over Northern California. While these getaways function as an escape from life on campus, they also serve an important role in a Burke’s girl’s life over the nine years she’s in school.
The Outdoor Education Program at Burke’s has a rich history that started in the 1980s. Bobbie Meyer, a Lower School P.E. teacher at that time, thought about how students had the chance to have experiences outside of the city’s urban landscape through eighth-grade visits to the Yosemite Institute and fourth-grade camping trips to Sutter’s Mill. Meyer wanted to provide similar opportunities to girls in all grades.
Her vision culminated in the 1987 purchase of the Mountain Mill House campus up north toward Clear Lake. Over time, finances became difficult, and Mountain Mill House was sold in 2003. The proceeds from the sale were used to fund the full Burke’s Outdoor Education Program, the focus for which has grown beyond nature to teamwork, social development, skill building, and much more.
Rebekah Wolman, former and long-time Director of Upper School captured it well when she stated that “the ‘curriculum’ for the Outdoor Ed trips has been linked both to social-emotional development and learning goals, as well as our academic curriculum. Once we sold Mountain Mill House, we identified outdoor/experiential education providers whose programming and locations were well matched to our students’ developmental levels and our program goals.”
The program’s challenges increase by grade level, and Wolman described the long-term goal well: “the girls learn to work together, rely on themselves, learn what they are capable of, and also to support and rely on each other. We also hope to instill in the girls a love and appreciation of the natural world and an understanding of the ecology and geology of at least part of California.”