We will determine what each day will bring at our morning meeting, without preplanned/set activities. A general plan of each day begins with arrivals and hanging out near the parking lot 9:00-9:15, moving along to a preset meeting place at 9:15, having a morning meeting and snack at 10:00, free play, activities, and/or hiking until 12:00 (lunch time), free play, activities, and/or hiking until 2:45 when we’ll gather once again near the parking lot 2:45-3:00 pick up time.
Aside from the sketch of our daily schedule, there is no set curriculum. I pay close attention to group and individual needs as everyone interacts with each other and the environment, and I strive to work toward balance in the academic, social, emotional, and physical developmental realms. Children often develop a deep knowledge of our local environment and conditions, resilience and persistence, self care skills, physical strength and stamina, descriptive vocubulary, and lasting friendships. Each day unfolds as it needs to.
Mixed Age Groups
As in life, childen in mixed age groups are not artificially segregated and are free to choose their peers. There is no way to predict the makeup of each group. Often younger children regard older children as role models, while older children will develop a sense of empathy toward younger children. Everyone has opportunities to lead and follow, no matter their age or experience.
During each week I document our work through the use of photos, videos, voice recordings, written notes, and the like. I often post photos of some of our activities to facebook and instagram without revealing children’s faces or real names. At the end of each week I send a summary email to the group’s families with additional photos and stories. I may also include this documentation in books, articles, lesson plans, or other resources for those interested in outdoor education. At the end of each student’s time at Outside School they will receive a USB thumb drive with all the photos and/or videos I took during our time together.
Reports and Certificates
If you require a certificate or diploma at the end of enrollment, I would be happy to provide one. To transfer to some schools, they require a report card of some type. Typically I will either provide the documentation on the school’s form or will write a narrative in the form of attesting to the child’s academic, social-emotional, and physical development. I can adapt to your particular needs.
School and information sessions are held rain or shine.
You must sign your child in and out each day.
Only persons named on your application form may sign children out from school. You must notify Heather if someone else will be picking your child up, providing her with the full name and description of the person. It’s advisable to add other school attendees’ families to your list so you can carpool and in case you are running late someone can help you.
If your child will be late or absent, please notify Heather.
The program is for the hours listed. I view tardiness issues as disrespectful to your child, myself, and the group in sum. Everyone has a personal issue now and then (please communicate this with me), but frequent tardiness will be grounds for dismissal. I will provide each programs’ families with one another’s contact information to facilitate carpooling and pickups for late families.
Alvarado Park is in the hills, seconds away from I-80, San Pablo Avenue, and San Pablo Dam Road. Carpooling is encouraged! Please be advised that families are to park in the main parking lot on the left side of Park Avenue, as East Bay Regional Parks has deemed Park Avenue itself unsuitable for safe family crossing (cars zip up and down pretty quickly). Alternatively, our site is about a 15 minute walk from the 72 AC Transit route on San Pablo Avenue at McBryde and the 684 line stops nearby. The park’s official address is: 5755 McBryde Ave, Richmond, CA 94805 (please note that Outside School’s mailing address is P.O. Box 6490, Albany, CA 94706).
We will remain near the parking lot from 9:00-9:15 and from 2:45-3:00. If you arrive between those times we will have proceeded to our group meeting area; please meet us there.
School meeting areas:
Camp meeting area:
Teachers and children alike are subject to the same standards.
If there has been a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, off-color mucus production, and/or constant cough within 24 hours, do not come to school. If symptoms develop at school, you will be called to pick up your child within 30 minutes from the time of the call.
We follow the various communicable disease guidelines provided by Oakland, California based Bananas. Here is a link to their information:
Events such as major earthquake, fire, poor air quality, predicted lightning, high wind advisory, and teacher illness or injury will cause school to be canceled. Local conditions will be considered on predicted creek flooding days. No substitute days or refunds will be offered if the program is canceled that day. The number of canceled days is unpredictable and can be substantial. Please keep this in mind when choosing an outdoor education program. Cancellations are duly considered with group health and safety in mind.
Your application has a place for you to vote on whether you would like to be notified of closures at 7:30PM the night before school, which is less accurate but allows more planning time, or 7:30AM the morning of school, which is more accurate but allows less planning time. Whatever time most people in each application period chooses will be when notifications of cancellation are sent out. I’ll send notifications via email and/or text.
In case of emergency, we call East Bay Regional Parks dispatch (not 9-1-1) at: 510-881-1121
Non-emergency and observational calls are directed to Operations at: 510-881-1833
-A Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician and hold a California Child Development Master Teacher permit.
-I have fingerprint clearance from the State of California Department of Justice.
-If you would like a copy of my CV, please inquire.
-Carry first aid supplies at all times.
-Have a substantial first responder jump kit in my car, parked nearby at all times. This kit includes all necessary supplies to support medical or traumatic emergencies until paramedics or parents arrive, as appropriate.
-Carry copies of all children’s emergency contact and medical information. Families must provide two other emergency contacts who can be at our site within 30 minutes in Bay Area traffic in case of emergency and one other contact who is located outside the Bay Area in case of disaster.
-Carry rosters with all children signed in and out each day.
-Carry a charged cell phone and provide my cell number to participants’ families.
-Remain on-site while children are present without parents.
-Do a site walk-through with my husband or a volunteer each morning before school to examine for safe park users and facilities.
-Communicate daily plans to parents and one another.
-Use a buddy system, with no person going out of sight of the group without a buddy going with them and with express permission. No buddies may go out of earshot. It is mandatory for children to stay with a buddy and/or the group. If a child cannot or will not stay with the group and/or a buddy we will look for them and shout their name for 15 minutes before calling park dispatch for the police. That child will be expelled.
-In the event of an extreme emergency such as fire, I will begin contacting families via phone if we need to evacuate. We will walk as a group and rendezvous with families at the Kern Playlot on Kern Street in Richmond between McBryde Avenue and Esmond Avenue.
Please outfit your child with a backpack that fits them. It should have a chest strap so that it remains comfortable when hiking. It should fit a set of spare clothes, a 1 liter water bottle, and food for the day.
Materials from Home
If it’s important for your child to bring a book, toy, or other material from home, then it is important to me, too! Here are the questions your child should be able to answer in the affirmative for the item(s) to remain at school:
-Is it okay to share?
-Is it okay that it gets dirty?
-Is it okay that it gets broken?
-Is it okay if it gets lost?
Is it small/light enough to carry all day if we hike?
Wellness, Health, and Safety Guidelines
This is based on years of experience in human development, teaching outdoors, and life experience. In all cases refer to your physician’s advice.
Food and Water
Please pack at least a clean 1 liter bottle of fresh water.
There will be two snack times and a lunch time. Please pack plenty of food into containers placed directly into the backpack (a lunch box adds too much weight for hiking).
-Nutritious meals include healthy proportions of the macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
-Avoid simple sugars such as honey, syrup, jam, dried fruit, juice, and yogurt with added sweeteners for meals during school, as these frequently cause agitation that adds on to the work of learning how to live and learn along with others. Instead, pack fresh fruit and vegetables along with other complex carbohydrates and protein sources.
-In cold weather it’s really nice to have some warm food and beverages. Some suggestions include warm tea or broth in a Thermos and/or a Thermos of oatmeal or leftovers.
Healthy eating for children guidelines from Kaiser Permanente:
Clothing, Weather, and Gear
We observe the Swedish saying, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.” Dress in layers to ensure comfort in whatever weather the day may bring. Pack an extra outfit in your child’s backpack, along with an impermeable bag for dirty/wet clothes; this sends the message that it’s okay to have fun and be dirty and/or wet. In order to reduce backpack weight, the extra clothes can be as simple as leggings, a t-shirt, and socks. Some kids need two sets of extra clothes!
-Comfortable, well-fitting, closed-toe shoes are essential for running, jumping, climbing, and hiking, as well as supporting the developing body. Hiking shoes or boots, sneakers for dry days, and rain boots work well.
-Jeans and leggings promote ease of movement and climbing.
-Long pants and long sleeves assist in reducing exposure to sun and bites, and can help prevent some bumps, scrapes, and cuts.
-Children need freedom of movement and to see their feet as they’re climbing and learning to navigate varied terrain. Skirts, dresses, and fancy shoes inhibit these aspects of their physical development. Do not wear them to school.
-Wash clothing often, applying insect repellent and weather proofing as necessary.
-Use a child-size backpack with a chest strap for stability while hiking.
-A bag for clean clothes and another for dirty clothes are useful to keep things, well, clean and dirty. An empty plastic or Chico bag can also be used for sitting upon or standing on while changing if desired, and can double as an extra clothes bag.
-Check the weather before school. Parks are still wet on a sunny day following a rainy day, so wear rain clothes.
-If it will be dangerous to travel to or hold school for the day (e.g. threat of or actual flash flooding, high winds, or lightning), a notification will be sent out.
To check weather each day before school, I recommend using Weather Underground:
Wellness and Routine
School, growing, and life are hard work! Children thrive when we provide consistent routines and firm, defined boundaries. Please be mindful that your child will be most prepared for school when they are feeling well, have had enough rest, and have eaten a nutritious meal. When basic physical needs are met, additional learning can take place.
-Our schedule is based on children’s need for rest, recuperation, and quiet after the physical, mental, and social activities of Outside School.
-Keep in mind that children in traditional, full-time schools are in programs that are far less vigorous. Please ensure your family has the ability to get the right amount of rest each person needs to be their best selves. Sleep needs are based on 24-hour periods, and may include a nap in addition to sleep at night.
Information on sleep from the Sleep Foundation:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, reminding us how we can be our best selves:
No matter the weather, if it’s daytime we are exposed to UVA rays from the sun.
-Wear a hat each day. Sun hats should cover the face, ears, and neck. If a warm hat is worn in the morning, ensure a sun hat is packed in the backpack every day in case your child begins to feel warmer.
-Wearing long sleeves and long pants helps reduce sun exposure.
-UV protecting sunglasses may be worn.
-Because the sun’s rays reflect off surfaces, even the areas covered by a hat need to be protected. Use a mineral based sun block on all areas of exposed skin. Make sun block application a part of your morning routine before coming to school.
-If your child is going to pack additional sunscreen and you need me to help reapply it, please let me know.
Sun safety information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
The Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen information:
Plants and Mushrooms
Some plants and fungi we encounter may be harmful to the skin or poisonous if ingested. Types we avoid touching include much of the lily family (with the exception of edible wild onions, which have a strong onion odor), poison oak, poison hemlock, and all mushrooms. If unsure, check with a knowledgable adult.
-Unless a plant is specifically food, it does not belong in the mouth.
-Exploring mushrooms with sticks or the bottoms of shoes is acceptable.
-If a mushroom or poisonous plant is touched by hand, scrub the skin thoroughly with soap for two full minutes and then rinse.
-If poison oak or poison hemlock are touched with clothing, change clothes and wash with hot water and detergent.
-If a mushroom or poisonous plant is put into the mouth, contact poison control.
-Add the Poison Control Hotline to the contact list on your phone:
Poison Control Hotline: 1-800-222-1222
It is unknown what animals we may encounter during school, including the possibility of large predators such as coyotes or mountain lions. Some animals we encounter may spread disease, including ticks, mosquitoes, some mammals, and all feces, human or otherwise. While most snakes we may encounter are harmless, there may be rattlesnakes present in our environment.
-Wearing long sleeves and long pants along with repellent products can reduce exposure to bites and stings from mosquitos, ticks, and the like. Do tick checks at the end of each day. Refer to the CDC and EPA sites below for more information.
-Be able to identify harmless and venomous snakes. Be aware that some harmless snakes shake their tails to imitate a rattle. Refer to a knowledgable adult if you’re unsure. Snakes of all types will only strike when threatened. Stay still and move away slowly only when you’re sure it’s safe if you come near a rattlesnake.
-All feces can contain parasites. Nocturnal mammals found in the daytime may be injured or ill. Avoid contact.
Tick information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “Find the Repellent that is Right for You”:
United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “Using Insect Repellents Safely and Effectively”:
There are many other health and safety resources on that page of my www.TeachOutside.org website:
If you need support with any of the above, I will be happy to work with you!
Thoroughly examine school information on this website, the calendar, and policies.
2. Complete all fields of the application form near the bottom of this page.
3. Attach additional information as necessary.
4. Send completed application and payment by the due dates.
5. You will receive a countersigned application form and confirmation of enrollment as soon as possible after all paperwork has been successfully submitted.
-Applications are accepted for any period listed on the application on a first come, first served basis, up until the final due dates. I check my post office box weekly on Mondays after 11:00AM.
-Please provide additional information and/or documentation for your child’s health information if necessary. Please be as thorough as possible. If I need to contact you for further information it may delay approval of your application.
-If information has been withheld, you will be asked to provide it and your application will not be considered complete until it is received. Furthermore, if you have withheld information on your application that becomes apparent upon enrollment, it is grounds for immediate dismissal with no refunds given.
-See table below for information regarding how to send paper or electronic applications and payments.
-Applications are considered complete once both the entire form with signed waivers and payments have been received. Both parents must sign the waiver. If there is only one parent or sole custodian, include a notarized document swearing to that fact and that the signing parent warrants against acts of the other, non-signatory parent.
-I am receiving no outside funding at this time, so no discounts or scholarships are available. Families are welcome to use their charter school vouchers. If you know of a funding source, please feel free to put us in touch.
-Payments and deposits are your assurance that you intend for your child to participate in the program you applied for, and as such are nonrefundable. If your child is unable to participate in a session for which you have obligated yourselves, you may apply the payment toward another Outside School program that starts within one calendar year for that which you paid, provided space is available and you have notified me by the due date.
Applying for School
-$800.00 deposit is due with application.
-Tuition is due according to the schedule below. I will appreciate it if you remember to submit tuition on time without my needing to remind you.
-Because we may not cover every topic required by the State of California, nor are we in school the required number of days, you will need to be enrolled in independent study, private school, a charter homeschool within your school district, or be provided additional instruction by a certificated tutor in order to comply with California Educational Codes (for more information: (https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/ps/psaffedcode.asp). “Flexi-schooling” within a brick-and-mortar public school is also a possibility that you can work out with the school district. For students who are six years of age or older as of September 1 of each school year and above, attach proof of enrollment to your application. This is not mandatory for children who are five years old at the time the program starts, as education is not compulsory in California until first grade.
-Outside School is allied with the following programs:
Approved vendor with online charter homeschool Visions In Education.
If you wish to use Visions in Education funds toward tuition, you must provide the purchase order as an attachment to your application and you may use them toward school year tuition. Your deposit, however, must be paid with your personal funds. I will apply the divided total amount by nine to reduce monthly tuition payments with the exception of June, which your deposit pays for.
Partner with online private homeschool with a strong academic program Laurel Springs School.
Outside School is not formally allied with the following programs, but you may consider them for your School of Record needs:
-Private online charter school Cedar Life Academy.
-Some families may elect to file a private school affadavit and complete any other curricular requirements themselves.
-Some families may elect to take their children out of public school on days they attend Outside School. You will have to arrange this with your child’s school.
-Provide a copy of your child’s immunization records. For more information visit www.shotsforschool.org.
Applications are first come, first served, and the final due date to apply for each school year is August 15 unless additional space is available. Please see my home page for current availability (2019-2020 school year programs are available!).
Applying for Camp
-$300.00 payment per week enrolled is due with application in order to secure your child’s spot.
-If you are planning to use Visions in Education school funds, you may use them toward camp tuition. Your purchase order must be attached to the application.
-Applications are first come, first served, and the final due date to apply for each week of camp is each Monday prior.
Click the button below for a link to the .pdf Outside School application:
Questions or Comments? Please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you ASAP: