Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education is a hallmark of Burke’s program supporting how we educate, encourage, and empower our students.
Trips begin in the third grade and the program’s challenges increase by grade level, becoming an annual rite of passage and an integral part of every Burke’s student journey. In line with our Strategic Plan, the program focuses on educating students about their natural world and their responsibility to be environmental stewards, as well as building resiliency and self-awareness. The experiences create space for students to step outside their comfort zones, develop their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, and empower them to care for and look after their physical and emotional well-being. 

The lessons learned while on Outdoor Education trips extend their reach back into practical, day-to-day classroom situations. Alice Moore, Director of the Lower School, thinks that the biggest benefit the younger kids get from the program is self-knowledge and confidence. “Being away from home, getting out of your comfort zone and in charge of your belongings is so important,” she says. “Sometimes there’s a little homesickness, but that’s part of the experience, and it’s so empowering when they learn that they can do it!”

Lower School knows all about how Outdoor Ed can bring out their camaraderie and sense of adventure. Fourth-grade teacher Elizabeth Charnas notes, “Everyone comes back a little more dirty and a lot more tired than when we leave—always a sign of a great trip! As a group, they show maturity, kindness, grit, positivity, silliness, and flexibility. They try new things, have fun, and demonstrate what good humans they can be when their community really needs it!”

Director of Upper School Sheena Tart-Zelvin expresses, “The trip is the perfect time to have students look within themselves, and see how they respond to moments where they're pushed from their comfort zone to their discomfort zone. They may even find themselves stretched beyond that to their panic zone and have to figure out how to communicate their needs in order to move out of that space and back into challenge or comfort.”

Upper Schoolers embark on different adventures to Pinnacles National Park, Boulder Creek, and Pt. Reyes. Students experience hiking, camping, and backpacking, navigate a ropes course or go rock climbing, and come together for team-building activities. They navigate and learn about their physical environment like the surrounding redwood trees and the beach, just as much as they learn about collaborating with close friends and classmates. 

Upper School teacher and advisor Emily Otero believes, “The seventh-grade Outdoor Ed trip offers students invaluable opportunities to expand their horizons and foster a deeper connection with nature. They delight in spotting rare condors during the challenging high peaks hike, embrace the challenge of rock climbing, marvel at the stunning vistas of Pinnacle rock formation, and enjoy exploring caves.”

The trips are also an opportunity to reflect and learn about practices of leaving no trace and how to translate those practices into other aspects of their lives, whether that is waste generated at home or on campus after snack recess. 

Head of School Michele Williams says, “Outdoor Education is a required and important part of our overall programming. It enriches our students’ educational experience and empowers them to become confident, competent individuals ready to tackle challenges both in the classroom and beyond.”
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.
Burke's admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.