Fifth graders from Ridgefield return to Cispus Outdoor School


Fifth grade students from Ridgefield were able to return to the Cispus Outdoor School this year after a three year hiatus to continue a tradition that has spanned for more than 50 years.

The students were able to take part in hands-on activities that included soil and water sampling, plant identification and nature art. They also learned how to build survival shelters, practice manners at family-style dinners and were tasked with keeping their cabins and dining room clean, stated a news release from the Ridgefield School District. 

“Like many generations before them, they were elated with the life-changing experience of sleeping in cabins, enjoying outdoor classes, and hiking through the woods,” stated the release. “At Cispus, students do all of their learning outside, rain or shine.”

Supervised groups of students were able to explore campgrounds, trails and the forest while learning about the ecosystems, resources and wildlife in the area. 

“For many kids, it’s their first time walking behind a waterfall or seeing bats hang in a cave,” stated the release. “Moments like this create incredible memories that will last a lifetime.”

The learning experience is made possible through the support of the Ridgefield community. Teachers and students are assisted by dozens of camp counselors, who are high school students who most of the time attended Cispus as kids. Community volunteers, many of whom have participated in the event for years, also help with activities as they guide hikes and teach survival training.

“All of this makes Cispus a once-in-a-lifetime event for fifth graders,” stated the release. “For many of them, it’s a first taste of independence away from home, and a chance to challenge themselves with completely new activities.”

Principal Todd Graves said 270 kids attended this year, which is the largest number of students to ever attend.

“Cispus is a system that really expands our kids’ learning in a way you just can’t find anywhere else,” Graves stated in the release.

Fifth grade teachers Annie Pintler and Amanda Burgess help plan the trip each year. 

“For all of us, it was really good to be back,” Burgess stated in the release. “These kids and counselors did so well. It was a super triumphant return.”

The Ridgefield School District has historically taken its entire fifth grade class to the school for over five decades, but restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic put the Cispus camp on hold for the last three years.

“For everyone involved, it was a welcome return to a Ridgefield legacy, a week of camp that changes lives,” stated the release.