The Valley Catholic Middle School outdoor school program enriches the sixth-grade curriculum by extending instruction beyond the classroom and provides students an engaging hands-on experience to learn about the natural world and obtain strong interpersonal skills in order to become good stewards of God’s creation. This year, from Nov. 6-8, students took part in outdoor activities at Oxbow Regional Park and CYO Camp Howard.

Oxbow Regional Park is a 1,000-acre natural area park located along Oregon’s Sandy River. At Oxbow, student activities hiking through the old forest and witnessing the beautiful heron in its own habitat. English teacher Melissa Vega-Smith said, “As they strolled the banks of the Sandy River, students discovered artifacts left behind on the footprints of the sand. They played games in the meadow then used a pen and colored pencils to design leaf print reflections of nature’s beauty.”

Dean of Academics Sarah Zinzer said, “This year, we were fortunate to feature many outside speakers to enrich the program.” Highlights included Rich Ritchey – “the Oregon Reptile Man” – and his exotic reptiles, OMSI’s portable planetarium and brain teaser exhibits, an “explosive” assembly on chemical reactions, and a petting zoo provided by Heart to Heart farms.



The students spent time hiking and journaling in nature, geocaching and orienteering, and had a healthy kickball competition. They dissected owl pellets, created their own constellation and myth, and studied the meaning of the Native American spirit animals.

The sixth graders also took part in team building activities, bonding with their cabin group and high school counselors, and meeting new friends from Blanchet Catholic. They sang songs and performed skits at campfires, were entertained by lasso tricks and banjo performances by Valley Catholic Choir Director Jeff Evans, and ate s’mores while being regaled with stories from Eric Holstrom.

Sarah Zinzer added, “It was a memorable week. Even with the rain and cold, the sixth graders were in such good spirits and brought so much energy and enthusiasm to each activity. They are a special class. I can’t wait to teach them when they are eighth graders.”

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