What if a classroom had no walls? What if every child had a chance to be a leader? What if we expanded our definition of what it means to be a successful student? These are the questions that inform Marin Horizon’s Experiential Education (XED) program.
Since the school’s founding, Marin Horizon students have been exploring natural spaces, practicing environmental stewardship, and honoring our community. Today, the school’s robust XED program combines 1) outdoor education, 2) service learning, and 3) our beloved buddy program to teach leadership, teamwork, independence, first-aid, and real-world problem-solving, all with an emphasis on caring for the environment and ourselves.
Marin Horizon’s experiential education occurs throughout the year, includes every student on our campus, and all overnight trips are programmed and staffed by our own faculty members. Our curriculum focuses on developing young leaders, teaching practical skills, inspiring an appreciation for nature, and, above all, building independence and resilience.
When new families learn that Marin Horizon kindergarteners experience an overnight camping trip - without parents! - at the end of the school year, reactions run the gamut from anticipation to fear, awe to anxiety. But when our kindergarteners return from their first formal outdoor education experience, the reactions are always the same: pride and joy.
After that first kindergarten overnight, students progress to multi-night trips in first through third grade that include mixed-grade team building, practical science lessons, campfire traditions, environmental education, and our famous river walk, all led by faculty, staff, and Marin Horizon alumni.
Beginning in fifth grade, outdoor education becomes both more challenging and more rewarding. Students hike-in to campsites on the nearby Mount Tamalpais State Park, as well as more remote destinations, and learn crucial skills such as navigation and map reading, first aid, fire skills, cooking and provisioning, water filtration, packing and campsite setup, and more. They learn to safely push their limits and support one another.
Our service learning program is guided by the needs of our community. Rather than simply asking students to volunteer for the sake of volunteering, we ask what our community needs and design our program to match. This means that our students are often volunteering close to home, sometimes right in our own school community. We seek input from our neighbors and send groups of students into the Homestead Valley Land Trust to help remove invasive species or to support the Homestead Valley Music Festival. Farther away, our students have cared for the newly restored Redwood Creek watershed at Muir Beach, served meals at Glide Memorial Church, and provided care packages for the unhoused at Ritter Center.
Every Marin Horizon student is paired with an older or younger buddy. Older students visit their younger buddies in their classrooms on a regular basis. Buddies also come together for special events throughout the school year. The true magic of the program occurs in spontaneous moments when a first grader runs to hug an eighth grader on the playground or a sixth grader pauses to comfort a kindergartener who is having trouble saying goodbye to mom. At Marin Horizon, big kids become mentors and our youngest students find someone to look up to. Upper school students embrace their responsibilities, knowing that little eyes are always on them. This means that our oldest kids remain connected to their younger selves, while also embracing the
value of maturity.