Outdoor Education in the Channel Islands

The aim of Democracy Prep’s Global Citizens Program is to offer our scholars once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to travel the country and the world, so that they understand the value of learning from diverse cultures, being open to uncomfortable experiences, and growing from pushing past one’s limits. Sixteen scholars experienced this first hand over the February Break when they made their way to the West Coast—a first time for many—to witness the beauty of the Channel Islands.

The Channel Islands are an eight-island archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California. Five of these islands—Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel—make up the Channel Islands National Park. Known for its rich and untouched natural beauty, there is much to do, such as kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, studying wildlife, whale-watching, and more! As first-time travelers to the Channel Islands, Democracy Prep partnered with the Santa Barbara Adventure Company to guide our group through the national park.

Scholars pictured at the start of their day. Each day promised a new scenic hike with amazing views and opportunities to see different kinds of wildlife and bird species.

The Santa Barbara Adventure Company has a unique approach in which students are fully immersed “in a classroom with no walls, no books, and no limits.” The outdoor education that they offer “makes an important contribution to students’ physical, personal and social education.” There’s more to hiking to the peak of a trail than just peering at the view at the top; scholars were also taking this opportunity to learn about geology, be active listeners and follow instructions, figure out how to work together, and understand the importance of trusting their team. These are all fundamental life skills that will serve them well presently and in the future. And that’s one of the extraordinary things about an outdoor education: while books can tell you a lot about California’s coastal ecosystem, it’s another experience entirely to be able to paddle through them, see and touch the plants below, and watch the school of fish swim beneath your kayak.
While our scholars truly enjoyed the exciting and fun parts of this trip, there were also parts of the trip that were more challenging. Many scholars struggled with not having a lot of the things that we often take for granted in our day-to-day life, like one’s own bed, cellular device, running water, or even a ready-made meal. Living in tents, sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground, hiking from one location to the next, and cooking their own food with unfamiliar ingredients proved to be difficult at times. Nevertheless, scholars were proud of themselves for rising to the challenge and adjusting well to their new surroundings.
When asked what they want people to know about their trip, they all agreed that, “It’s worth it!” No matter how difficult the task or how unfamiliar the activity, our scholars are happy that they took the chance to embark on this amazing journey with each other and they hope that you let yourself be open to adventure as well!
Up next, we’ll hear from scholars who participated in an Outward Bound program, where they backpacked and explored the beautiful landscapes of Big Bend National Park in Texas. See you all soon for our next adventure!

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