Since the School’s founding, outdoor education has been a cornerstone of the ESD experience. ESD’s very first school day did not begin in classrooms and hallways, but rather in the great outdoors. Founder Father Swann led two teachers and the first 11 ESD students on an excursion to Galveston Island, where they discussed the future of their new school and formed a strong community bond.
The important pairing of nature and community carries on today across all divisions. The youngest Eagles team up to explore the Quarry in ESD's own backyard and Upper School advisories often travel to Wolf Run, its outdoor education center, to provide a helping hand with the younger classes. ESD’s Middle School Outdoor Education Programming, however, is a bit more extensive. Middle School students have the special advantage of being old enough for overnight trips without having the rigorous academic and extracurricular schedule of Upper School.
“These trips make students vulnerable in a way that I think many Middle School students naturally shy away from, allowing them to be more open to both social and emotional growth,” explains Middle School Emotional Wellness Counselor Maricela Aquino, LMSW. “I think being in nature helps them open up in a way that's hard to achieve just at school.”
From the Gulf Coast and Texas Hill Country to Washington D.C. and Buena Vista, Colorado, these are just a few of the grade-specific outings available to our Middle School students. And for the Middle School division, Outdoor Education trips are scheduled in progression. From fifth grade to eighth grade, students work their way up through overnight trips to Wolf Run and state parks to bigger adventures in national forests and the Colorado wilderness.
“The elements of self-confidence and self-reliance that come out of trips like these, especially by the end of the eighth-grade trip, is just remarkable,” says Director of Outdoor Education, Eddie Eason. “Everyone has to pitch in, and what’s required of our students on these trips even the playing field significantly.”
Success on an Outdoor Education trip is not determined by your academic prowess or your athletic talent. The teamwork required on these trips and excursions, regardless of grade, creates strong bonds between students. This inclusivity is precisely what our Founder envisioned when he made Outdoor Education a focus of the School in its formative years and we are thrilled to see it grow and impact students each year.
For more information about ESD’s unique Outdoor Education program, please visit www.esdallas.org/student-life/outdoor-education.