Most Common Situations at Outdoor Science School

Below are brief descriptions of the most common issues we encounter at Outdoor Science School, and a few tried-and-true pointers on how to effectively deal with them.  Remember - our staff has heaps of experience with these issues and is always here to help out.  If ever you need anything, just ask!


Even the toughest kids can get homesick. Below are some tips from the American Camping Association that may help prevent homesickness.

Parents: Even the most well-adjusted child can get homesick, so don't assume your child is immune. Talk about homesickness and strategies for coping with it before outdoor school, but do NOT tell your child you will pick them up if they are homesick. This is a recipe for failure. Do work with your child to create positive expectations. If you are feeling anxious, try not to let this show to your child, as this will increase the chances they will be homesick. THEY worry about YOU, you know! Other things you can do at home include:

  •     working together as a family to plan and pack
  •     spending practice time away from home (such as a long weekend at a friend's house)
  •     experimenting with the best coping strategies during this practice separation
  •     preparing pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes to bring to camp.

Students: Focus on the positive - you are going to have a great time and learn a lot, but not if all you think about is how homesick you are. You are only at outdoor school for 5 short days and 4 nights, make the most of it! We will help by keeping you busy and making it fun, but you have to help, too. We will NOT let you call home if you feel homesick. Can you guess why? That's right - it only makes it worse, and we want to make it better and make this one of the best weeks of school ever! We don't want you to miss out!

Cabin Leaders: You can help a great deal by keeping the students busy and organized in the cabin. Have study hall times so they can finish their homework, skit practice times so you'll have a great skit - encourage working together and everyone's involvement! Assign buddies and rotate them if needed to break up cliques, including moving bunks if it helps. Play games with the group, make up songs, stories, read stories to them. Assign duties to each student for clean up procedures. Most importantly, focus on the positive! Spend time each day having each student share what was fun, what they learned and what they are excited about for tomorrow. Keep them focused on those positive experiences and that is what they will remember most!

Teachers: Prepare the students in the classroom for homesickness. Go over policies, we won't let students call home or let their parents pick them up just because they are homesick. Go over coping procedures: stay busy, focus on positive, bring pre-addressed, stamped envelopes and write home every day. Build up positive expectations for students. If you have students you are concerned will be homesick, work with their parents on coping strategies and what to say and not to say at home (no Pick-Up Deals!) Surprisingly, having a friend in the cabin with them isn't necessarily protection against homesickness. Even having a parent come up as a cabin leader doesn't always help. Positive expectations, attitudes, focus, and keeping busy and involved are the best remedies.

Elevation Sickness

Water, Water, Water!
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

The most common illness we see at Wrightwood is mild elevation sickness. We are located at 6,000 feet in the mountains, which is more than 1 mile straight up in the air!  That is pretty cool, because it means we have different and interesting mountain ecosystems up here, but it also means that your body will have to get used to the "thin air." With the air molecules spread farther apart up here, it takes more breaths to get the right amount of oxygen.  This can cause symptoms such as mild headaches and stomachaches, which are most common upon arrival on Monday and tend to improve over the course of the week as your body adapts.

The very best thing you can do for your body is stay hydrated. Luckily, we have delicious cool water that flows from every single tap on the site, so it is easy to keep your water bottle full. Make sure that you are drinking lots of water - whether you are a teacher, cabin leader, or student, so that you are feeling your best!  

If someone complains to you of a stomachache or headache, the first question you should ask is, "How much water have you had today?"  Have them fill their water bottle and drink all of it over the next 30 minutes, while laying down (if possible).  

Behavioral Issues

Firm!, Fair!, Friendly!

Occasionally, you may get a difficult student in your cabin, who has trouble following the rules.  The very best thing you can do for yourself, the student, and the other cabin members, is to be firm, fair, and friendly.  Set specific expectations, with specific consequences, and follow up with your consequences.  

Upon arrival, Cabin Leaders will be given an orientation with our Cabin Leader Coordinator, including an introduction to the Rules System that we have set in place for use in the cabins, and some tips on how to follow through with discipline. It is important to set up the rules and discipline system early (first thing Monday), and to strictly follow through with consequences each time a rule is broken.  This does not mean that you have to be mean!  It just means that you are keeping your words, your verbal contract with your cabin members, on how one is to behave in the cabin.  This way, students will see that you, the Cabin Leader, are the boss.  They will respect you, listen more carefully, and also feel more comfortable and safe in the cabin, knowing that there is someone taking care of them who cares, is conscientious, and is paying attention.

If you ever need backup, at any point during the week, do not hesitate to ask for help from a school teacher, our Outdoor School Principal, Kathleen Mitchell, or any of our Outdoor School staff.  We are all more than happy to help.  That is what we are here for!