Extended Outdoor Education

Joshua Tree

Extended outdoor education trips begin in third grade. These trips are a natural extension of the learning that goes on in the classroom, with science and social studies often providing the basis for each trip. The trips also help to foster a sense of community and togetherness among students.


The third grade overnight trip takes place in the spring at Walker Creek Ranch, an outdoor education site which focuses mostly on environmental education and experiences. The students take hikes, fish or search for "critters" in the ponds, and complete team building activities during the day and night away. One of the overall favorite memories for most third graders is the campfire complete with s'mores!


The fourth grade culminates their intensive study of the California Gold Rush by taking a trip to the historic town of Columbia. Students, parents, and teachers dress up in period clothing and participate in authentic Gold Rush activities for two days. Students participate in a scavenger hunt, perform their own Gold Rush skit, and enjoy the scenery of Tuolumne County. The trip brings to life the many different things that were studied in a rich, interactive way.

FIFTH GRADE OVERNIGHT: westminster woods

The fifth grade spends a day and night at Westminster Woods in Occidental. The professional facilitators engage our students in appropriate challenges that develop teamwork and individual skills, including hiking and low ropes course activities. The goal of the fifth grade overnight is to foster teamwork and leadership skills that students will employ throughout the school year.


Sixth graders take a four-day trip in late fall to Yosemite National Park. Led by guides from the Yosemite Institute, the students study the geology, plants and animals of Yosemite valley.


Each spring, the entire seventh grade class spends a week at Joshua Tree National Monument hiking, rocking climbing, and learning about nature and the desert ecosystem. While at Joshua Tree, students share leadership responsibilities and chores. The trip also tests and expands the character of students who are asked to step outside familiar, comfortable and traditional roles to explore more of themselves, others, and the natural world. Students often cite the Joshua Tree trip as one of the most memorable experiences of their time at MCDS.

EIGHTH GRADE: ansel adams wilderness

In early fall, eighth graders take a four-day trip to Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Additionally, towards the end of their 8th grade year, students have the option of participating in one of several intensive three-week projects in an area that reflects their interest. The projects -- which vary from year to year -- may range from the 8th grade play -- a long-standing tradition at MCDS -- to oceanography, culinary studies and building and design. Many of the projects involve field trips to destinations in the greater Bay Area. Students participating in the oceanography project, for example, may travel to Point Reyes National Seashore, Bolinas and Monterey.