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Education

San Diego County Outdoor School hiring staff to help students

The current shortage of teachers and school staff has now found its way to the great outdoors — and the largest outdoor school in California run by San Diego county’s office of Education. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez takes us there.

The current shortage of teachers and school staff has now found its way to the great outdoors.

Cuyamaca Outdoor School is the longest-running and largest outdoor education program in California. Next fall, more than 11,000 students are expected to attend the week-long camps operated by the San Diego County Office of Education.

“The students are learning a very rigorous science curriculum,” said Kris Pamintuan, the school’s principal, “ At the same time, they are learning some really amazing social skills that they don’t have the opportunity to learn in a regular classroom.”

Three hundred students from Meadowbrook Middle School in Poway and Paul Ecke Central Elementary in Encinitas were on the outdoor campus this week. The curriculum includes group activities like archery, rock climbing, and hikes for scientific data collection.

Dave Bristow, a sixth-grade mathematics teacher at Meadowbrook, brought his classes to the camp for learning and team building.

Thursday morning, his students were involved in a simulated life-or-death situation. They had to carefully maneuver their entire team across wooden planks. The planks were elevated off the ground above an imaginary toxic river bubbling at their feet. It’s far from their usual classroom.

“They’re supporting each other which doesn’t surprise me. It’s nice to reaffirm they can still do this and that they can work together," Bristow said. "They might bicker in the beginning but they come up with a strategy and start to hear each other.”

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M.G. Perez
6th grade students from Meadowbrook Middle School work on rock climbing, Thursday, at the Cuyamaca Outdoor School, Descanso, CA, May 12, 2022.

The Outdoor School needs to fill about 24 full-time and part-time positions to support an increase in students expected to attend the program in the next year.

“The work we do — in every department, every day — truly matters as we guide students to develop an appreciation of nature, discover how to think like a scientist, explore ways to have a positive human impact on the environment, practice healthy habits, make new friendships, and create lasting memories during this transformative outdoor education experience,” Pamintuan said.

SDCOE will host a job fair from noon to 5 p.m. on May 20 at the school, located at 12561 Highway 79, Descanso, CA 91916.

Most of the positions will start at the beginning of September. However, summer and weekend kitchen teams are needed immediately. Salaries range from $15 per hour for camp counselors to $30 an hour for camp maintenance.

Interested candidates should bring a state-issued identification card and Social Security card or valid passport to expedite the hiring process.

For questions contact Dustin Burns at (858) 290-5982 or duburns@sdcoe.net.

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