In the spring of 1999, the faculty was discussing how we could do a better job integrating new students into the high school. Steve Robinson, our science teacher, and Anne Sterling, our history teacher, hatched a plan to take the entire high school on an educational retreat in September.
For our first trip, we were incredibly fortunate to secure a week at Camp Moran, an environmental education institute located on Orcas Island, Washington. Camp Moran provided housing in rustic cabins, a dining hall and commercial kitchen which we could use to prepare our meals, and an incredible crew of educators who taught our students about the environment on Orcas Island as well as group building and leadership skills. It was a great week, punctuated by Steve Robinson deciding at midnight one night that we all needed to drive up to the top of Mount Constitution to see the stars. We all felt a bit naughty, but the stars really were spectacular, and the students never forgot it.
When we first proposed the trip, many high school students said that they didn’t want to go, so we took the unprecedented step (for Oak Hill) of requiring all high school students to attend. We thought that if everyone went, and had a great time, that enthusiasm for the trip would then be handed down year to year. We were right about that. Our alumni from that time still talk about our trip to Orcas, and the yearly High School trip continues to be a high point for our students.
Since that first trip, we have tried to vary the experience so that in their four years of high school, students will attend a different program each year. We have gone to Camp Ramblewood on the Olympic Peninsula, ropes challenge courses, an OMSI camp at John Day, the Olympic Park Institute, and a tree-climbing clinic on the Oregon Coast, among others.
Wherever we have gone, whatever program we have been involved in, the trip has proved to be a wonderful opportunity for new students to make friends with current students, and for students and faculty to get to know each other in an off campus context. Every place we have gone, the resident staff have complemented us on our fantastic students. Every year, the ability we have to take the entire high school on such an adventure underscores our belief that sometimes small really is beautiful – even in a high school.
In 2014, seeing the high spirits and camaraderie that the High School students entered the year with, Middle School teachers decided to organize a similar yearly retreat for Oak Hill’s Middle School students. They have since gone to…
Recent Oak Hill Fall Retreat locations:
2016 – Olympic National Park
2015 – Black Butte Ranch
2014 – Cascade Mountain School at Mt. Adams
2013 – Camp Tillikum
2016 – Twin Rocks, Rockaway Beach, Oregon
2015 – Camp Kiwanis, Hood River, Oregon
2014 – Camp Tilikum, Newberg, Oregon
2013 – Camp Collins, Gresham, Oregon
2012 – Opal Creek, Willamette national Forest, Detroit, Oregon
2011 – Camping in Bend and river rafting