Conserve School's curriculum includes opportunities for outdoor exploration, including multi-day backcountry experiences. The days leading up to these expeditions are filled with instruction, as part of the Outdoor Skills curriculum, in how to put up tents, how to pack backpacks, how to dress right for the weather, how to handle canoes, and other important skills. By the time students participate in these experiences, each of them has the knowledge and skills they need to enjoy their time on trail.
Once each semester (mid-September in fall, late May in spring), students and staff pack up and head out for multi-day backcountry camping trips (five nights, six days). These trips are opportunities to explore magnificent Northwoods natural areas, build confidence in outdoor skills, and study in the “outdoor classroom”. Students and staff, in groups of 8 - 12, backpack or canoe in locations such as the Sylvania Wilderness, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior, or along the North Country National Scenic Trail in the Upper Peninsula's Trap Hills. Students do need to provide personal clothing and footwear, but Conserve School provides all technical and group gear, such as tents, stoves, backpacks, dry bags, sleeping bags and pads, and water purification systems.
Students and staff members get to know one another well during these trips, and student friendships grow stronger. Students and staff are split up into small groups so that students can experience the sense of being alone with nature -- a small group set against a backdrop of miles and miles of uninhabited wilderness. Expedition groups always follow Leave No Trace principles, cleaning up carefully after themselves, keeping their noise level down, leaving natural items where they belong, and being gentle with trails and campsites.
Students and staff participate each semester in a two-night solo camping experience, with the goals of providing dedicated time for quiet reflection, building confidence and comfort in being outdoors, and encouraging careful observation of a natural location. Solos take place on our 1,200 acre Lowenwood campus, and students are provided with necessary camping gear, such as tents, sleeping bags and pads, and food. While each student camps alone, others are camped nearby, including an adult who checks on students' well-being, in an unobtrusive way, on a regular basis.
Each semester staff members offer optional, one or two night outdoor adventures. Treks might involve hiking, canoeing, overnight camping, community service in natural areas, visiting local attractions like the spectacular waterfalls that dot the Northwoods, and many more. Winter treks bring the opportunity to enjoy a favorite winter sport or to learn a new one: back country skiing, snowshoeing, or building and sleeping in quinzees (snow shelters). Our campus and the surrounding wilderness areas are so full of opportunities for outdoor fun and challenge that we have no difficulty creating a new and varied set of options for each trek.