ESCAPE the Smoke!

Plans for Slide Ranch foiled by the air quality lead us to a day of on-the-fly adventures…


Over the past 18 years and 150+ trips, we’ve had very few reasons to cancel a trip. Rescheduling a trip involves more paperwork and finding new chaperones. Canceling undercuts our goal of nine trips in a year, so we try to avoid both. We’ve had only a couple issues where we thought it best to do that. For our November trip to Slide Ranch, the air quality was so poor that our program understandably had to be canceled. When an outdoor education club can’t go outdoors, that causes a pretty big problem.

We schemed and plotted several options, but we thought it best to avoid the outdoors altogether, and play it safe indoors. We drove up to the Chabot Space & Science Center in the Oakland hills. It had been several years since the club had been there, and many of our kids and chaperones had never experienced the planetarium and large screen theater. But upon our arrival, they made the decision to close as well.

Free Solo was playing before noon in San Francisco, so we headed over the bridge, with plans to be back in Oakland for ice skating later. The movie is FANTASTIC– go see it! (The trailer is HERE if you don’t know about it.) In terms of its appeal to young teens– well, it is a documentary. Most stayed awake, and a few even enjoyed it. But as usual, kids are mostly glad to be out doing something together.

Back at the Oakland Ice Center, we found ourselves early for the open skating session, but conveniently, there was a hockey game going. We enjoyed watching until our session began. Pretty sure that was a new experience too!  Kids always are excited to ice skate, regardless of their ability, and this time was no different. We had a blast.

We’ll miss Slide Ranch and its unique set of experiences for our kids. But we salvaged the day, and made it another one to remember.

It’s a short one this time…

ESCAPE to Rock City 2018

Our First trip of the year–up to the summit, and then all over Rock City…


The ESCAPE Club is rolling along, and we took our first trip of the year in October. About 30 students gathered at DeJean and piled into our chaperones’ cars. We headed east through the Caldecott Tunnel, and up to the Mt. Diablo summit at just under 4000 ft. There’s a nice little museum there, and we hung out for about a half hour and enjoyed the views under clear skies.

The highlight of the day is always our time at Rock City, about halfway back down from the summit. It’s mostly unstructured time for exploration, playing games, climbing up the rocks and into small wind caves, and hiking on short trails around the area. It’s pretty tough to get lost, and there are so many fun things to see and experience.

We didn’t see any tarantulas, as it’s toward the end of the season, but we caught our annual lizard. You can probably imagine it was pretty traumatized after being passed around from teenager to teenager, but we figure if it can’t avoid getting caught by us, it’s probably not going to last long in the wild anyway.

We wrapped up the day with an ice cream treat (thanks to a couple pounds of dry ice), and headed back home. This trip is always a nice opportunity to get to know kids–their names, their personalities, their sense of experience and adventure, etc. Thanks to our fantastic group of chaperones, as usual, and to YOU for reading this far!

Enjoy the quick video below, if you like. And stay tuned for details from our November trip.



Of course, there’s a video. Check it out and get the whole story here!


Back for another year of adventures…


ESCAPE Club Family,

We’re indeed back at it for year #19 of the ESCAPE Club at DeJean. Kids are coming to meetings, and we’ve already been on our first trip. (The trip summary email is coming soon! We’re of course a little behind already.) We’ve got nine trips planned again, and several dates are already on the calendar. This year’s shirt design is coming along (still in draft form shown above–don’t make any final judgments!). So as you can see, we’ve got a nice group of kids, and things are really moving.

Neither Jason nor John is working on site at DeJean this year, so that will create its own set of challenges. But we’ve got another great team of teachers to support us, chaperone trips, and take care of details while we’re away from campus.

We’re still meeting weekly after school to prep for trips, learn a little ecology, history, and geography, and hang out together. The foos ball table is rocking, as usual, and Connect Four and ping pong are making their appearances. The principal, Mr. McGee even stops in once in a while to take a break from his busy day!

Another challenge has been trying to up our game a little in our lesson planning at weekly meetings, in particular to try and support new NGSS standards. Kids are creating their own models to represent data, designing solutions to problems, and doing more thinking in our lessons than in recent years. That’s been a difficult, but fun challenge to work on as the year has begun. Some examples are below. Students were asked to represent the percentage of plastic water bottles that actually get recycled, vs. those that go to landfills.



We’re looking forward to another great year, and we’re glad to have you all along again. If you’d like to chaperone any of the trips, please let us know. If you’d like to visit us on a Thursday afternoon, we’d be glad to have you. And if you’d like to support us financially, we always appreciate it. All the usual channels for donation are open, but let us know if you need more information.

We’ll be in touch soon with summaries from our first trips!