About Our Curriculum

Students witness ecological relationships in action and learn how trees, animals, water, earth, and air participate with their respective environments. Students have first-hand experiences that develop their understanding and skills in many subjects, including science, social studies, mathematics, English/language arts, art, music, drama, and physical education. Program lessons focus on nine core concepts, seven of which are ecological and two are interpersonal and socially developmental.

Ecological concepts

  1. Adaptation: Adaptation refers to the changes in an organism's structure or behavior that enable it to respond to and survive in its environment.
  2. Change: The environment is in a constant state of change. Elements of an ecosystem, living and non-living, are moved from one state to another – such processes include succession, migration, and erosion.
  3. Communities/Ecosystem: A community is an area in which living organisms interact with each other to satisfy their basic needs – food, shelter, and reproduction. An ecosystem is an area in which living organisms – plants, animals – and non-living elements, such as soil, water, air, etc., function together as a unit.
  4. Cycles: Cycles and closed circular movement are common features in environmental systems. The water cycle, phases of the moon, and seasonal appearance of constellations are a few examples demonstrating the cyclic nature of environmental change.
  5. Diversity: Diversity is the unique genetic and behavioral structure of each organism that sets it apart from all others. Groups of living organisms function together thus forming unique environments. Diverse environments are less prone to radical shifts in composition because of the mix of organisms.
  6. Energy: Energy sustains the interconnectedness of the environment. The sun is the ultimate source of energy on earth as all energy can be traced back to the sun.
  7. Interdependence: Interdependence is the mutual reliance that two or more organisms have on each other for their own survival. All elements of an ecosystem are interdependent, directly or indirectly.

Interpersonal skills/social development concepts

  1. Decision-making: Decision-making is the development of an awareness and understanding of ethical concerns and their relationship to group and individual choices.
  2. Cooperation/sharing and caring: Cooperation is the concept of interdependence expressed through human interaction. Other people's involvement in a specific task or experience often makes it a better experience all around.


Cabin groups have several opportunities throughout the week to work together to win awards for timeliness, cabin cleanliness, care for the earth, and care for each other. Cabin leader, naturalist and teacher-issued awards are a great way to build cabin enthusiasm and unity.

These awards are positive reinforcements and incentives to encourage students to do the appropriate things. Here they are listed below.

Awards Given by Cabin Leaders

  • A.C.T. Award: This award is given to cabins that display a positive Attitude, Cooperate with each other and the other cabins, and Try new things throughout the day. Cabin leaders may also give the A.C.T. 2 award if this behavior continues. (Incentive to have fun and be positive at Outdoor Ed.)
  • Earth Award: This award is given to cabins that work together to do something positive for the Earth, i.e. pick up trash outside the cabin or write a poem about the Earth. (Incentive to do something good for the Earth.)
  • Fantastic Flush: This award is given to cabins that keep their bathrooms clean, i.e. pick up paper towels, flush toilets, turn off water and lights when done, and shut doors. (Incentive to keep bathrooms clean.)
  • Super Table Award: This award is given at all meals to the tables who do the best clean-up job, i.e. only the hopper is standing, students are talking to people only from their table, the table puts their deer ears up when announcements are being made, etc.

Awards Given by Teachers

  • Giant Sock/Slipper: This award is given by the teachers ("or the giant") to cabins that have their teeth brushed, pajamas on, and are in bed with lights off by 9:30 pm. (Incentive to get to bed on time.)
  • Golden Dustpan Award: This award is given to cabins that keep personal belongings neat, wet clothes hung on bunks, heaters and lights off, and floors swept. (Incentive to keep cabins clean.)

Awards Given by Naturalists

  • Mystery Meal Award: This award is given to cabins that arrive for meals on time or early. Mystery meals are a surprise and only happen a few times during the week. (Incentive to get to meals on time.)

The awards are a great way to build enthusiasm and cabin unity. Encourage your students to get in the spirit and do their best to win. Good sportsmanship is also expected, so if students don't win one day, encourage them to give "warm fuzzies" to those who do and go for the award the next day.

Allison Collins

Director, Outdoor Environmental Education

Email: acollins@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 747-9581

Jonathan Harris

Manager, Outdoor Education

Email: jharris@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 747-0414

Amanda Lee

Administrative Assistant, Outdoor Education Information and Registration

Email: alee@smcoe.org

Phone: (650) 802-5360