Good hearted and hard working school teachers take on the task of organizing this Southern Caliornia outdoor education field trip for their elementary and middle school students. They educate parents and students, organize paperwork, collect money, and lose sleep. Once first day of program arrives, everyone heads up to the mountains where we take over. Visiting teachers have a very free form role in our program; we need their help supervising during meals and in the case a student cannot participate in the program. Other than this they are encouraged to interact with the students, watch classes, catch up on school work, and, like the students themselves, just enjoy their time in the fresh air.
For the students, we look at ourselves as a wonderful combination of both a school and a camp.
For the students, we look at ourselves as a wonderful combination of both a school and a camp.Our science and ecology based classes, based on California State Standards, are taught from thoughtful and detailed lesson plans in interactive and experiential ways, and offer three activities and one experiment per class. Unlike other science schools, we operate on the notion that this one experience may be the only outdoor “camp” experience that many of these students ever see. Because of this, we would be remiss if we did not include the “camp” side of things; classes like climbing, archery, teambuilding and orienteering, songs and skits, and lots of fun, silly games. We want students to understand that life is a proper balance of hard work and fun play.
At camp, students spend their time split between the field and the cabin. In the field, students grab a sack lunch and head off with their field instructor, out of doors the whole day while being taught classes chosen by the visiting school teachers. Dinner is back in camp at the dining hall, after which students switch to their cabin instructor, who teaches night classes, hosts evening programs like snakes and line dancing, and makes sure certain essential demands (showering, sleeping, etc.) are met. After a night’s sleep in a heated cabin, students are up and ready for breakfast and the next day. Students are supervised 100% of the time, and our program is purposefully designed to keep students busy and occupied the entire time they are here with us.
Classes and Schedules
Our goal is to absolutely minimize downtime and make the most of every minute of your trip. You can see how days are generally organized by looking at a sample schedule. Every school that comes up to camp has different students with different needs. Part of the fun of High Trails is that you choose the daytime classes that best fit your students. If you have special program needs or requests, we are more than happy to work with you to make sure the experience is just right for your school.
Weather And Clothing
Camp ranges in elevation from 6,500 to 7,200 feet, so you won’t ever have to worry about air conditioning! Temperatures during the fall and spring are warm during the day and chilly at night, with winter bringing chilly days and cold nights. Snow will fall, though we can never predict when. Please bring warm clothes, gloves and a hat, boots and multiple pairs of socks, and a waterproof jacket. Encourage your students to do the same. Don’t be afraid of the winter and snow! We do have waterproof boots, pants and jackets available to students who need them.
Your students are directly supervised by a High Trails Instructor 24 hours of the day. The only time supervision is not direct is when they are in the restroom or shower. In this situation instructors are nearby in case assistance is needed.
Food and Meals
Our cook is tremendous at preparing not only healthy kid friendly food, but good adult and vegetarian options as well; check out a sample menu here. We treat meals as a program teaching opportunity; we’ll talk about food waste, discuss riddles, sing songs, and emphasize manners.
Lunch on the Trail
On the first day lunch will be served in the dining hall, but unless the weather is bad, the rest of the week lunches are eaten outside. This gives students more time outside; the very reason they are up here in the first place. Instructors prepare lunches for their trail groups at the beginning of each day based on student preferences, and the entire group pitches in and carries their lunch out onto the trail.
School Teacher Details
While you’re at High Trails, we’ll primarily need your help with two things; supervision in the dining hall and taking responsibility for any of your students who cannot participate in our program, either due to medical or discipline issues. You do not have to teach any classes or supervise any group activities of any kind. Aside from this, you are free to enjoy the outdoor atmosphere of the mountains. You can see more details of your expectations below.
For teachers we have several buildings available in which to rest and relax. Rooms have between one and two twin sized beds, so be prepared to share a room with your fellow teachers. Sheets, blankets, pillows and towels are all provided; you do not have to bring bedding or sleeping bags. There is a TV with satellite service, a refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker provided for your use. Cell phone internet hotspots are recommended, but we do have limited satellite internet available in the dining hall, where you can use a community computer or your own laptop. Teacher housing is limited, so if you are planning on bringing teachers/adults in excess of the traditional ratio of 1 teacher per 30 students please let us know ahead of time so we can discuss availability.
Number Of Teachers
At least one of the adults attending camp must be a certified teacher employed by the school in attendance. One adult chaperone must attend camp for every 30 students. Parents are not allowed to attend camp as we believe this changes the experience for the child. There must be one school staff member readily available at all times in the case of an emergency. If you plan on leaving the camp property for a short time during your visit, please bring a cellular phone so we can reach you in case of an emergency.
We strongly encourage you to bring one personal vehicle with you to camp. There have been situations where a student is sick or disciplined, needs to go home, and their parents will not come pick them up. If you have your own vehicle at camp you can remedy this; if not, the student will be placed under your direct supervision. High Trails has vehicles to use in emergency situations, but for occasions such as wanting to drive into town to shop or needing to take a sick or disciplined student home, only your vehicle will suffice.
Support For Schools
Getting your students ready for camp is a big challenge! You have parents to deal with, permission slips to copy and hand out, money to collect, buses to schedule; the list goes on. Although we can’t take your place in the classroom, there are several ways we can help with preparation:
If you’re at all new to the process, or just want to read a fresh perspective on the step by step process of preparation, start here. Fundraising Guide
A one page shot of the videos you’ll need to show parents. Video Presentation
Parent Website Information
We have a webpage devoted just to parents and students and their specific questions about camp. Parent Website Information
Printable Parent’s Guide
We encourage you to copy this and pass it out to students to give to their parents. It answers many of the questions they have and will shed some light on the entire experience. This is the same information that is on the parents website page, just in printed form. Printable Parent’s Guide
The best time to do these are Open House and Back To School Nights. Be sure to read the information on the Schools page and the Parents page so you have a solid base of understanding. Here’s a suggested outline for your presentation:
- Web Browser: pull up a browser with two windows – the main page of our website, www.dirtyclassroom.com, and the video presentation page, https://dirtyclassroom.com/videos/
- Background Website: while parents are coming in and sitting down, leave the front page of the High Trails website open so that the slides can scroll through.
- Introduction: the teachers introduce themselves and explain to the parents that they’re going to be talking about their upcoming field trip to High Trails Outdoor Science School. High Trails is located 30 minutes outside of Big Bear Lake, and is in the middle of the National Forest. Tell them when the field trip is, who the chaperones will be, which students are eligible, and the cost.
- Video: play the 3 minute video “Schools and Parents”.
- Rationale: explain to the parents why the school believe this to be an important experience for their students.
- Resources: pull up the High Trails website and encourage the parents to spend some time on this site. It has lots of information; weather, videos, forms, pictures of staff, lesson plans, schedules and menus.
- Special Concerns: pull up the Special Concerns web page and let parents know if they have a special situation that this is the way to get in touch with High Trails staff ahead of time to make sure things run smoothly with their student.
- Video: play either the Student One or Student Two video – watch them ahead of time and choose the one that best suits your needs.
- Question and Answer Session: the teachers open the floor up to questions and answers from parents. Encourage them to get in touch with High Trails to ask any questions you can’t answer.
- Close: thank the parents for their time and encourage them to contact the school teachers or High Trails with more questions.
- Paperwork: the teachers pass out flyers and informational packets. We suggest using the resources on our Forms page and the flyers available on the Fundraising Guide.
- Background Video: as the parents start to leave, play the Site video; this is a great overview of the outdoor science school experience.
Steps in Preparing for High Trails
- Read this entire Teacher’s Guide, and then explore the rest of the website.
- Head over to the forms page. Here you’ll find all of the paperwork to get organized and ready for your trip. Start with the High Trails Check List and use it to understand, prepare and organize your forms.
- Email your site director to say “hello” and let them know of any special needs or requests. Site Directors send out welcome emails at the beginning of every school year and season and will be your primary contact for organizing the trip.
- Talk with your fellow school teachers to make certain your are all on the same page with what is needed to make a successful trip. Encourage them to read the entire Teacher’s Guide so everyone know exactly what to expect.
- Plan out your parent presentation, transportation, and fundraising.
What sets us apart from most outdoor education centers is that 95% all of our staff are college degreed professionals. The ones that don’t have a degree are using High Trails as an internship so they can complete their university degree. They are recruited from all over the United States to teach Southern California elementary students. Once your students step onto camp, we take control of their experience and our staff lead the way.
During the day groups are led by Field Instructors, who take them out into the woods and help them to experience nature firsthand. At dinner our Cabin Instructors take over, leading evening programs and focusing on the development of communities in cabins, and then sleeping overnight with the students. The next week of camp our staff rotate; the Cabin Instructors become Field Instructors and vice versa. This keeps our staff fresh and makes sure that everyone knows 100% of the camp experience and student needs. During the year, we focus on continuing education and improvement for our instructors, making evaluations, projects, and inservices a mandatory part of life at High Trails.
To apply to work as High Trails, potential instructors must submit a cover letter, resume, and a response to our “Tough Questions”. If everything looks good we spend some time talking on the phone, trying to get to know who wants to work with us. Next step is to see what other people think; a minimum of three work and personal references are verified and rated, with an above average rating needed to qualify. Our primary concerns when looking for staff: a responsible love of teaching children, a passion for the outdoors, and a demonstrated professionalism in an outdoor camp environment.
If selected, staff are invited to a two week training, where they will be screened in person and given the chance to demonstrate their teaching competency. FBI and CA Department of Justice fingerprinted background checks on every staff member are completed to verify their clean criminal background, and their First Aid and CPR certifications are verified. Now they are ready to step into the role of a High Trails Instructor. See more details on our Staff Website.
Our Administration…Your High Trails Guides
- Site Director: this is the person who is your primary communication liaison in regards to overall planning and preparation for the trip. Once you get to High Trails, they will continue in this role and talk with you every day, every step of the way.
- Program Coordinator: this is the person who not only writes our curriculum and trains our staff, but also acts as the assistant director to the Site Director during the week. They will be supporting all aspects of the program and are ready to make life smooth for both teachers and students.
- Medic: this is the person who will be handling medications, sick students, and special needs. They are ready to talk with parents and teachers before the trip to get all the details ready, and will be at High Trails every step of the way during the actual trip experience.
High Trails employs a full-time Medic who is trained in First Aid / CPR and is certified as either a wilderness first responder (WFR), emergency medical technician (EMT) or a nurse (RN/LVN). The Medic is on call for emergencies or medications 24 hours a day. Our Medic administers first aid treatment, distributes medications as listed on the Medication Form, and maintains a small infirmary. The Medic carries with them a UHF based radio and Cell Phone so that they can be contacted at all times of the day.
Injections and Emergency Medications
Regularly scheduled injections involving the penetration of skin by a needle must be administered by the student themselves, a parent, approved school personnel, or by an individual minimally licensed as nurse*. High Trails personnel are available to assist and oversee dosage and administration of these injections.
Emergency dosages of medications will be administered by High Trails personnel in accordance with written medical direction.
*High Trails does have a nurse available, on an additional cost basis, if needed by a school.
Reserve a Nurse
If your school requires your Medic to be certified as a nurse, High Trails employs one that can be reserved in advance to serve as your Medic. There is an additional per student fee for this service; see the Program Form for more details.
Our Site Directors are trained as Wilderness First Responsers, we have another trained Medic on staff ready to step up as needed, and we have an on call EMT. Additionally, every member of our Instructor Team is certified in basic First Aid and CPR, and they carry a first response kit and UHF based radio with them anytime they are working.
High Trails supports and encourages a wide variety of students as they consider journeying up into the mountains. Every student and situation is different, so please contact your site director to discuss any special needs you may have. As a general rule, if a student needs an aide at school or special care in the home for basic needs (bathing, changing clothes, etc), the school or parent will need to provide an aide for the duration of the camp trip. Please check out the Special Concerns Form for more details.
If your school needs an aide for a student but can’t arrange for the personnel, we may be able to provide one (dependent upon our staffing availability). We break the days down into daytime periods of 10am-5pm and evening/morning periods are 5pm-10am. Our staffing costs are $100 for each time period, per day. So, if you have a student that needs an overnight aid in the cabins and you are staying at High Trails for 3 nights, the cost would be $300 added on to your invoice. If you have a student that needs a daytime aid for 4 days, the cost would be $400. This aid is used for general support and is not a specialist, medic, or nurse. Please inquire with us for more information.
Help us support your students and parents! Because of the high volume of student issues, all student related communication must be initiated in a written fashion via our Special Concerns Form. This allows us to both maintain a high standard of care and keep track of the many students and situations that find their way up to High Trails.
We need a Health/Consent Form for each student, and if they are bringing any medication, a Medication Form. All forms can be seen here.
Medication Form Information Please Note: we anticipate that 5% of your Medication Forms will need more attention because they are not filled out correctly, and our medic is ready to handle these problems on the day of your arrival. As their priority is the immediate care of your students, our medic doesn’t have the time to fix more than this small and reasonable amount of paperwork problems.
Our suggestion is to have your students turn in both their Medication and their Medication Form the week before your trip to High Trails, and have a health clerk or someone else at the school review the forms to ensure that they have all been filled out correctly.
xyz-ihs snippet=”backgroundlitegreen”]Asking school representatives to help if forms aren’t correct is something we have always done, however many times we take care of it ourselves because it’s quicker and easier for everyone. Over time, however, we’ve had more medication forms with problems, causing an unreasonable workload for our medic on the first day of program. What we ask is that schools ensure that their parents/guardians fill out their forms correctly, allowing us to do what we do best: run an outdoor science school.
Before You Leave School
It is the school’s responsibility to ensure that students arrive in good health. The school must exclude students from participating in the trip for the following reasons:
- Temperature of student is 100 degrees or greater on the morning of departure. Please check all of your students the morning of departure.
- Signs and symptoms of illness such as severe coughing, runny nose, or sore throat.
- Incomplete recovery from recent illness. Students must have a temperature below 100 degrees for at least 24 hours before they can come to High Trails.
- Incomplete recovery from recent injury. Students with recent injuries must be able to participate in our normally scheduled program unless previous arrangements have been made with school.
- Any indication that a student is carrying or has on their person/belongings an insect such as lice, nits, or bedbugs.
Illnesses/Injuries: Teacher Help Needed
In the event that a student in not able to participate in our regular program, for reasons other than discipline/behavior, the medical protocol is as follows:
- The Medic will speak with the student to determine the cause and condition of their discomfort.
- Immediate First-Aid will be given to life-threatening injuries, other injuries, and wounds.
- Injuries will be assessed and treated. The student will be administered any over the counter medications available for that student’s injury that have been approved on the student’s Consent/Health Form by the parent/guardian. If the student cannot return to program the parent/guardian will be contacted, and a teacher will be asked to sit with the child, either in the isolation room or in the teacher’s quarters. The student will remain away from program for 4 hours or until their injury allows them to return to program activities.
- For Illness, the student’s temperature will be taken. If the student has a normal temperature (at or about 98.6 degrees F), then the student will be treated with any over the counter medications available for that student’s symptoms that have been approved on the student’s Consent/Health Form by the parent/guardian. If the student has a temperature of 100 degrees or greater, or if their symptoms demand it, they will be treated with over the counter medications as approved on the Consent/Health Form. If the student cannot return to program the parent/guardian will be contacted, and a teacher will be asked to sit with the child, either in the isolation room or in the teacher’s quarters. The student will remain away from program for 4 hours or until their illness allows them to return to program activities.
- If after 4 hours a student cannot return to program, the parents will be contacted again and the student will be sent home. If the parent cannot pick up the child, the visiting school will become responsible for supervising and transporting the student back to school. Reasonable accommodations will be made for students whose injuries limit their mobility but wish to remain at program.
- A note about our 4 hour rule: After this time frame, the student needs rest, and our program is not a good environment for extensive recuperation from illness or injury.
There may be times of the school year when student sickness is more prevalent; to keep other students healthy, High Trails reserves the right to immediately send home any student with a temperature of 100 degrees or greater.
In the event of serious accident, injury or illness to a student, the High Trails Medic will provide first aid treatment and, if necessary, the student will be taken to Big Bear Community Hospital or Loma Linda Hospital. Transportation is provided by visiting schools and teachers. If this is not possible, High Trails will provide emergency transportation. The parent/guardian is responsible for immediately picking their child up should an emergency situation arise.
PLEASE NOTE:We are located in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest. It is possible that access to an emergency facility and emergency service response time could be delayed in excess of one hour due to our remote location, road conditions, and weather emergencies.
Discipline and Behavior
We expect students to be on their best behavior while visiting our school. Students who misbehave repeatedly will be expelled from camp. Our discipline policy has one warning and three strikes: Warning: Maybe you just got to camp and didn’t know that was a rule. Now you do…
- Strike 1: The student is informed of their poor choice and a discussion is held on how they can improve their behavior.
- Strike 2: The student is brought to a member of camp administration. Teachers are contacted and their feedback is solicited. A behavior contract is established which clearly states the behavior the student must exhibit to remain a part of the program. The parents are contacted at this point and made aware of the contract and the consequences for any further negative actions.
- Strike 3: A student who breaks their own contract will be responsible for the consequences. Any student who receive a 3rd strike will either be sent home or placed exclusively in the custody of the visiting school teachers.
Any Infraction that puts a student’s or staff member’s safety in jeopardy will result in the immediate expulsion of the student.
For our discipline system to work effectively, we need the cooperation of both the parents and teachers. Every stage of the discipline process is documented on the Strike List, which is updated during meals and available for teachers to read. We encourage teachers to check in with the Strike List and to briefly talk with students if they receive a warning or first strike. When a student gets a 2nd strike, we will ask for the teacher’s assistance in making sure that the situation is handled as constructively as possible. In the unfortunate case of a 3rd Strike, the parents will be called upon to transport their student from camp. If the parents are unable to do this, it is the teacher’s responsibility to either transport the student off the camp property or assume complete control of the student.
Pricing, Payment, and Extras
High Trails Tuition
Our fees include all meals, lodging and programs. Teachers may attend free of charge at a ratio of 1 teacher per 30 students. Any teachers attending in excess of this ratio may be charged at 50% of the camp tuition. Prices are based upon time of year, length of program, and site preference. Please see the Enrollment Form for our current prices.
Are available, along with prices, to select on your Program Form.
- Last Day Sack Lunch
- Last Day Lunch in Dining Hall
- Infirmary Supervision: If a student becomes ill and needs supervision until they are better or parents arrive, High Trails will provide the personnel and visiting teachers will not need to watch the student in the infirmary.
- Nurse instead of a Medic: If your school requires your Medic to be certified as a nurse, High Trails employs one that can be reserved in advance to serve as your Medic.
High Trails offers scholarship money for schools. On your invoice, we will automatically deduct the cost of one student for every twenty-five students that you bring to camp. You may use the scholarships for individual students, subtract a small portion from everyone’s cost, or apply the scholarship money toward bussing costs. We reserve the right to void all scholarships if the number of students does not equal 90% or greater of the contracted amount or payment is not received before or during your week at camp. We will show the scholarship amount on the final bill based on the number of students that physically attend camp.
Payment is due upon arrival at camp. Please let us know if you anticipate a delay in payment. Checks should be made payable to High Trails. We will email an invoice to you the week prior to your arrival at camp, with student numbers based upon your Program Form. If your district or school will be sending payment prior to arrival please use our main office address: High Trails, PO Box 2640, Big Bear City, CA 92314. If payment is not received before or during the week your students are at camp, we reserve the right to revoke any offered scholarships.
We do accept credit cards via PayPal. Add 3% to the total being charged to cover the transaction fees. To use a credit card, request an invoice for your school or individual student by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Individual payments will be credited on the school’s final invoice.
If you arrive at camp and realize you have overpaid, we will gladly issue a check for the difference; we only charge you for the students that you actually bring to camp. Refund checks will be issued within 30 days of payment receipt. Because of fixed staffing and site costs, we cannot issue refunds for students that arrive late or leave camp early.
Adjusting Number Of Students
We base our program, staffing, and site scheduling based upon the number of students on your contract. Should this number change, whether it is up or down, please let us know right away so we can make the necessary adjustments to our program. High Trails reserves the right to hold schools responsible for paying a minimum of 90% of the amount of students shown on the contract.
We’ve worked hard on an exhaustive guide to fundraising. Check it out, wade through it all (it’s pretty long…) and, we guarantee, you’ll find at least one solid thing to aid you in the fundraising process. Fundraising Guide
Once You're Here...
Once you have students, paperwork and money ready, it’s time to head up the mountain. Make sure you know which site you are going to! At least once every year a school shows up to the wrong site because they assumed their bus drivers knew where they were going. Please give us a call when you leave the school, so we have an idea of when you will be arriving. Unless arranged otherwise, we will be awaiting your arrival at 10:30 am on the first day of your program. We have staff meetings, inservices and work projects on these mornings, and if you arrive a good deal of time before this we are often not ready for you. If you know you will be much earlier or later than 10:30 am, please let us know and we will adjust our schedule to fit yours.
Once you arrive at camp, please know exactly how many students you have with you. The instructors will take the students off the busses and get things going. We’ll greet you and show all of the teachers to your lodging, where you can get moved in and ready for the week. We’ll then set a time to have a Teacher Meeting, where the High Trails administration will all sit down with you as a group to discuss the details of the coming week. Please have all of your paperwork and payment ready at this time. We’ll give you a Teacher Packet for the week, including the week’s schedule and an evaluation form for you to fill out. From there, we’ll set up a time for the Instructor Meeting, where you will get a chance to sit down with the instructors who will be with your students for the week. This is a good time to discuss individual students and their teaching needs. Finally it’s time for lunch…we’ll head over to the dining hall (where your students will have received a welcome and expectations speech). After lunch you are free to enjoy your time at High Trails.
Teachers In Classes
We encourage you to walk about during your stay and observe the students in their classes and cabins, in study and in play. As you do this, though, please be discrete and do not disrupt any classes in progress. Please recognize that your presence is a powerful one for the students and at times it can provide a welcome diversion from actually having to focus on a class. The ideal time to stop in on a group is during a break in the action, whether between classes or individual activities. Our instructors work hard at getting the attention of their students and appreciate your support at keeping the students focused on the classes, not you.
Teachers are welcome to leave High Trails to go into nearby towns (Big Bear is 30 minutes away…). Please check in with us before you leave and give us a cell phone number and an anticipated return time.
Sick Or Disciplined Students: Teacher Help Needed
On the occasion that a student cannot participate in the program due to a health issue, an accompanying teacher will be asked to help supervise the child, either in the isolation room or in the teacher’s cabin. This allows the Medic to easily respond to other illnesses or emergencies without leaving the student unsupervised. If your school does not want to assist us with the supervision of sick students, we would be glad to provide additional supervision on a standby basis at an additional charge.
If a student has earned their 3rd strike, they are at the point where they are no longer welcome in camp activities. On this occasion, the student will be placed in the care of their school teachers, who are fully responsible for them until they leave camp.
Dining Hall Expectations: Teacher Help Needed
- To ensure that all the tables have at least one adult, visiting school teachers will be assigned a table at the beginning of the week.
- Students may not get up from the table without your permission. The only reasons they may need to get up are to see the medic or visit the salad bar.
- Encourage the students at your table to make wise food choices, and hold them accountable for those choices by only giving dessert to those who have no food waste.
We’ll have a brief meeting on the morning of the last day to discuss how the week went and your thoughts on the program, instructors, and students. By the time this is over we’re about ready to load up the busses. Please arrange to have your busses here on the last day of the program at 10:00 am, so we can have them loaded up and ready for a 10:30 am departure. This lets you get back to the school by the time the final bell rings. If you are scheduling a Last Day Sack Lunch, we will put all of the lunches in large boxes so you can stop on the way home and eat them. If you want to have lunch in the dining hall on the last day, please have your busses here by 11:00 am so we can load them up for an 11:45 departure time.
The neverending process of raising funds for our children to have worthwhile experiences. It IS hard. We’re sure you have a million tricks up your sleeve, but here are some more…check out our Fundraising Guide.