Purposeful and planned outdoor experiences have been part of an MA education since the school’s inception in 1972, and we have always equally valued traditional and non-traditional learning environments. At one time, first year students went on multi-day backpacking trips as part of their orientation to the school. At one time, students in a literature class called "Man and Nature" participated in two different outings as a required aspect of the course. Over the years, the Outings Program has taken many forms and has grown in many ways, but the core value remains the same, so that even today it is not unusual for a student to make arrangements to miss a day or two of classes to get outside with an MA leader and learn what the natural world has to teach. In its latest iteration, the Outings Program has accepted the challenge posed by a future of diminishing natural resources and increasing environmental degradation by working to incorporate an element of stewardship and responsibility for the environment into all of our trips. Additionally, the program has recently become carbon neutral by purchasing carbon offsets.
MA’s active commitment to kids’ learning outside the classroom as well as inside has many expressions: Minicourse, Vision Quest, trips abroad, field experiences, and an energetic offering of day-long and multi-day outings into California’s mountains, deserts, and coastal waters. We backpack, we ski, we camp in the snow, we climb rocks, we hike on Mt Tam, we SCUBA dive, and we kayak. Occasionally an outing requires a modicum of previous experience, but far and away the majority of MA Outings are geared toward the beginner. We see ourselves most often as introducing kids to outdoor skills and appreciation. We plan developmentally appropriate and valuable outings to any locale that offers manageable risk, natural beauty, and skills with which to interact with the environment.
The Outings Program is a reflection of MA’s commitment to experiential education, and, as such, the program fits well into the school’s overall educational philosophy. We believe that our culture’s young people are growing up increasingly information rich and experience poor, and that learning by doing invariably results in more durable understandings and insights than that which occurs out of a real world context. We believe that the concepts of adventure and fun are powerful learning tools and that small-group interactions in outdoor settings contribute to a student’s cognitive, social, and emotional growth. And we believe that outdoor, wilderness experience actively promotes, encourages, and develops the seven practices MA has identified as programmatic learning outcomes—the practices of perspective, compassion, balance, integrity, mind, communication, and responsibility.