Tag Archives | Teaching Techniques


Trail Games #1- Kyle O’Dea

So what do you do while hiking with a large group of students through the forest? Play games of course! Here at High Trails Outdoor Science School we have an arsenal of games we play and songs we sing when we are out on the trail. This arsenal of ours continues to grow with the […]

Outdoor Education Question Guide

Guided Questioning: Turning Wah into Wow – Mark Kerstens

Ever have a cool fact, idea, or concept that comes up as you hike that you want to share with the students? These teachable moments happen all the time, and are a great way to add extra information into your lesson plan while engaging the students in critical thinking. When I first started teaching at […]

Outdoor Activites

Props: Can’t live with them, can’t live without them… Shane Hyre

If you talk to anyone in the outdoor education business – talk about props. Talk about the rubber chickens, the stuffed animals, the rope, the spots, the foam thingies… props have been the underestimated “magic items” facilitators use to distract participants one way while getting them to step outside their comfort zone the other way. […]


Don’t Rain on My Parade! Shannon Diaz

Have you ever had to teach students while outside in the rain or snow ? Here at High Trails, we hike and teach our students in three different seasons with all sorts of weather. Whether we have rain, sun, sleet or snow, the weather can either make or break our students’ experiences and our classroom […]


Large Group Management 101 – Leslie Urban

Most of the time at High Trails, students are in small groups, but there are a couple times during the week that the whole school comes together. These large group activities tend to be the fun activities happening at night – snakes class, campfire, even our meals have interesting informative programming lead by staff. A […]


Ode to Button-Pushers – Alex Rice

Do you know the student who throws a stick when their instructor isn’t looking? The one who goes past the boundary their teacher very explicitly creates or breaks the rule that was thoroughly reviewed three times before the activity? Maybe you were that student! These students who tend to consistently “push buttons,” and are often […]

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Toothpaste: Show Don’t Tell – Kelsey Wentling

Once inside the cabin, everyone shivers off their jackets and eagerly starts buzzing around the warm haven: home for the next three or four nights. Soon after, buzzing turns to chatting and not far off chatting turns to gossip. Middle school children are no strangers to gossip. Seemingly every student, willingly or otherwise, partakes in […]


Why We Lorax – Penelope Burgess

 “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” –Dr. Seuss  What is The Lorax? Every Friday morning at High Trails Outdoor Science School, groups of 40-120 5th or 6th graders gather in an outdoor amphitheater, sit on wooden benches, and watch a play. It is the […]


Frontloading and Debriefing – Shannon Diaz

“On your mark, get set, go!” “Huh? I don’t even know what we’re playing!” Have you ever tried playing a game or doing an activity that wasn’t explained completely or didn’t make sense to you? This can be confusing and frustrating for everyone involved. In order to successfully set our students up for success and […]

American Sign Language

American Sign Language in Science – Sarah Beery

How do you teach science to a deaf student if sign language doesn’t have a way to sign the word? Science is its own language with all the varying terms ranging from photosynthesis to camouflage to crepuscular. Teaching science through American Sign Language (ASL) adds to the challenge because it has never developed standardized vocabulary […]

Mind Growth

Growth Mindset – Alicia Imbrogna

Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. -Tim Notke How many times in your life have you encountered a situation that was frustrating or annoying and often appeared too difficult to overcome? Have you ever passed on trying something new because you were afraid you’d look foolish? In Mindset: The New Psychology […]


Flip Distractions into Discussions: Verbal Jiu-Jitsu- Alex Eisenreich

You are a Teacher. So you probably know that Random Tangent Student. The one that takes extra prompting to engage in class; the one that needs redirection to stay on task; the one who doesn’t volunteer answers or questions during discussion; the one that you often catch staring off into the woods and seemingly never […]


A Reflection on Peer Mentoring – Carolyn Scarpelli

All of these excuses didn’t matter…Deep down I knew there were a few things I needed to work on, but I hadn’t figured out exactly what I needed to do to fix the problems I was having while teaching. The peer mentoring program at High Trails Outdoor Science School is a way for instructors to […]


“Whatever GRABBSS their attention…” – Shane Hyre

Team Discovery Hike: it’s the first activity you do with your field group on their first day at High Trails. It’s time for the group to discover who you are, where they are, and what they are doing this week. It’s also a time for you, the instructor, to discover your field group and beyond […]


Analogies are to Teachers as Utility Belt is to Batman – Hollyann Duskin

A streak of light burns bright and brief across the night sky. A collective gasp comes from the group of students huddled in the darkness as they exclaim, “a shooting star!” As we discuss that shooting stars are actually space rocks called meteors, I tell my cabin group that these meteors rarely make it all […]


Scientific Method in Everything – Leslie Urban

In sixth grade I remember losing a spelling bee because I did not know how to spell ‘hypothesis’. Our science teacher, Ms. Miers, had spent the entire fall semester pounding the Scientific Method into our heads and yet I still did not even know how to spell hypothesis. From that one humbling moment on, I […]


A Visit To Jellick Elementary – David Nakic

Being from Chicago, I have never been to an elementary school in Southern California. So, I was curious to see how some of the students I worked with at High Trails function in their California classroom. Jellick Elementary has been coming up here since 2003, all with the same dedicated teacher; Nancy Buck. This school […]


Improv-ing Education – Cass Language

Friday afternoon— busses are delayed due to snow, and you find yourself with 15 students for an hour longer than you expected. Or maybe your boss tells you to lead a 10 minute activity for all of the staff bright and early on a Monday morning. Think quick…or better yet, just improv! There are many […]


Shared Classrooms? Shane Hyre

We teach both primarily 5th and 6th grade students. Is there really that big a difference in that one year of life that affects how teachers teach and students learn? Recently, I had the privilege to observe a 5th & 6th grade classroom in Lucerne Valley, a desert town on the northern side of the […]


Keeping Your Class Focused – David Nakic

Take a seat, be patient, and focus on learning some of these great classroom management techniques. Your teaching will improve (and you will be happier…). The physical freedom in the forest isn’t something a lot of our students have experienced before. Their desire to explore and this new found freedom can often be distracting and […]


Teaching with Music – Jordan Rowell

“Alright class, it’s time to earn our beads for our Furry Friends class. Let’s review what you can remember about adaptations of mammals. John, tell me at least one characteristic of a mammal?” Uhhh oh is right. I just taught this to them. However, I have a secret trick up my sleeve. “What about the […]


Purple Flying Elephants – Mark Lisak

Want to learn how to integrate storytelling into your classes? Read on… “Hello! You have hired me, Captain Mark, to take you to the Land of Purple Flying Elephants. The Purple Flying Elephants have taken your purple beads. To get them back we must sail across dangerous waters, cross peanut butter rivers full of acid, […]

Ok, he's not a puppy anymore, but he's still cute.

3,2,1, Bonus Point! Caroline Blake

“Single file line in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” This is what I shout to my students within the first 5 minutes of their arrival. The kids scurry to get into the best line that they can form. “You all have been awarded a Bonus Point,” I say. At first I get quite a few […]

Pauls Meteor

A Unique Class is a Memorable Class – Paul Adams

A few weeks ago, I was attending a music festival in Santa Barbara. As I was walking around the camp ground, I met a man named Brian who invited me into his camp. We had been talking for a while when he pulled out his meteorite collection, which he had previously found in the Nevada […]


My Former Self – Shannon Diaz

Have you ever thought back to when you were in fifth grade? What was the world like for you then? I remember when I was in fifth grade, and getting ready to go to Camp Hi-Hill, the Long Beach Unified School District’s Outdoor School (at the time) in the Angeles National Forest. I was excited […]


Why Visit A Classroom? Tamara Perreault

Working at High Trails, I quickly became a proponent of teaching outside. There are a lot of clear benefits. In California, class size is almost always 20 or more, but our groups are rarely more than 15, and we can spend quality time with each and every one of our students. Students that are squirming […]


Home – Tamara Perreault

What makes a place a home? This can be a tough question. Think about it for a moment. When you say, “I feel like I’m at home” what makes you feel that way? 2,000 years ago when the Yuhaviatam arrived in the San Bernardino Mountains they built the first human homes in the area. The […]


Science Fiction Is a Teaching Tool – Jake Sheaffer

As instructors at High Trails we are constantly trying to relate the material that we teach back to the student’s daily lives. Sometimes this is difficult, because not all students understand why topics like astronomy and space travel are relevant to their lives. One tactic I have used during Astronomy is to explain the relationship […]


Esquith, Kohlberg, & their 6 Levels of Moral Development – Caroline Burdick

Last summer, I accepted a new position at High Trails as Program Coordinator. At the time, I was unclear exactly what that meant. Honestly, as we moved forward in the school year, I was still unsure as to what my job description was. It was a new position which stemmed from the Program Director position, but was […]


Mock Teaching: Jake and Company.

Max is one of those guys whose quirky sense of humor and far reaching smile instantly lights up a classroom. But right now, three days after the start of new staff training at High Trails, he’s super nervous and fumbling for words. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and everyone can tell. Even worse […]


Big Picture Lesson #3: You Are the Master of Yourself – Danny Walden

I hold up my radio and beckon to the kids in the back, urging them to listen to the crackly voice emanating from the speaker. It’s almost time for switchover, when the kids will join their field instructors for the day, and all the cabin groups are clumped in the open area in front of […]


How was your day? Como estas? Ian Kaye

In a game of tag with 12 year old boys, one of my students picks up a stick and tries to “tag” another child with it. I stop them all with a “freeze” command put in place before the game started and try to explain why tagging people with sticks is a very bad idea. […]


Big Picture Lesson #2: The World You Know Is Not the Entire World – Danny Walden

“Wait, you don’t have a TV?”  My students’ mouths are agape.  “Nope,” I cheerily reply.  “So… you don’t watch TV at all?”  “Nope,” I say again with a little smile.  In their eyes I am suddenly an alien, and I’m okay with it.  Their jaws are fully on the ground.  “So… what do you do?” […]


Big Picture Lesson #1: Nature Is Not the Enemy – Danny Walden

Here at High Trails, it is apparent to us that most of our students have had no real contact with nature before their experience with us. One of my students recently commented that the trees, freshly adorned with vibrant clumps of snow, looked like high-definition TV. This viewpoint is a common one among our students, […]


Big Picture Lessons: Introduction – Danny Walden

At the end of each week, we have our students individually answer a few questions about their time at High Trails.  Students share what they learned and evaluate us, their instructors, on our performance. The question that I am perhaps most interested in, the last question on the form, asks what they will remember in […]


Group Development – Connor Lee

At High Trails Outdoor Science School we teach thousands of students from over 100 schools each year. High Trails students learn hands-on about their environment and themselves in small groups with students from outside their normal class in school. While this is a great learning opportunity, it presents a unique challenge for our instructors. High […]


A Classroom Teacher’s Perspective: Noel Leon

Prior to coming to High Trails I was a classroom teacher. I started my full time teaching career as a middle school science teacher and was very excited about sharing the subject I am passionate about with my students. My first couple of years were pretty disheartening because not only were most of my days […]

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