We Focus on Middle School

Hyla Middle School

Exploration Week

Exploration Week immerses small multi-age groups of students in a week-long experience or activity at the very end of the school year. We find that middle school students learn best when they are involved in active and meaningful work.

This program exemplifies what we believe is important for engaged middle school learning: a learning experience in a real-life setting is not soon forgotten. Alumni often tell us that these Exploration Week trips were the catalyst that ignited a passion that they have continued to pursue. 

Exploration Week Trips for 2017


Backpacking the Olympic Coast
Leaders: Jeff Steele and Sammi Clute

Hiking the Olympic Coast is something you’ll never forget. This is a wild hike through rocky bluffs, mystifying sea stacks, amazing tide pools, and long stretches of beautiful sandy beaches. Whether you are taking your first step into the wilderness or consider yourself a wilderness guide in the making, you’ll experience an enormous gain in skill and confidence on this trip. We will travel relatively short distances each day giving us lots of time to enjoy the water, the sun, and the local wildlife. We will set out from the Makah Indian Reservation at Shi-Shi beach, just south of the Hyla surf group at Hobuck Beach. We will meet our pick-up just north of Lake Ozette on Saturday. Each day we will hike between 2-5 miles, taking in the absolutely beautiful views of rocky outcroppings like Point of the Arches and Ozette Island. All you’ll need for the hike is a good pair of hiking boots – don’t let anything stand in your way of taking this great trip.


Canoeing Ross Lake
Leaders: Cami Holtmeier and Mike Fosmark

Back-country travel, wildlife viewing, swimming, exploring, canoeing, and camping await you during Hyla’s adventure on Ross Lake for Exploration Week! We will spend five days and four nights paddling the pristine waters of one of America’s most beautiful lakes and camping among the trees in North Cascades National Park. In addition to getting around by canoe, we will swim, explore narrow creeks by canoe, take some short day strolls along lakeside trails, do some orienteering, and cook on camp stoves. Lakeside camping offers spectacular views. Prior to leaving on the journey, all members of the Ross Lake team will develop skills in paddling technique, setting up and dismantling tents, packing a backpack, tying selected knots, and reading back-country maps. Come join us for an adventure to remember: Paddling Ross Lake.


The Random Acts of Kindness Road-trip
Leaders: Chris Soldevilla & Kimberley Gorman-Trick

A decade ago, American writer, Anne Herbert, voiced a call to action for people to “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”  Her words inspired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Margaret Paloma Pavel (author), and Mayumi Oda (illustrator) to put together a picture book by the same name.  Since then, RAKing has become a quiet but genuine force behind promoting global happiness.  Whether it is giving someone your spot in a queue or sharing your lunch with someone, it feels good to help others.  Our RAKing Roadtrip will begin right here at Hyla in our initial meetings where we will identify different ways we can support the communities we travel to (people, animals, and environments). We will pick causes that we are passionate about.  Ultimately, we may find ourselves in a senior living center doing yoga, a children’s hospital doing improv, or delivering lunches to homeless individuals.  We will travel through Washington’s coastal towns towards Oregon, cleaning beaches and repurposing the trash we find.  We will blog about our experiences, documenting through words, pictures, and videos.  We will travel in cars, sleep in tents, and eat at diners and road stops.  We may even find some time for geocaching – perhaps we will leave behind some of our own treasures.  At the very least, we plan on leaving our planet just a little healthier than we started the week. Come join us for a road trip of paying it forward.


Walla Walla, Washington: A Photographic Expedition
Leaders: Paul Carroll and Cindy Schacht

Walla Walla is a town in the far southeastern corner of Washington, and it is a special place, very different from Bainbridge. It is close to the Blue Mountains, nestled in gorgeous farmland and typically has a feeling of wide-open space. Especially because it is so different, we are enthusiastic about getting middle schoolers to have a camera in their hands that operates as an invitation for them to really look at this new world around them. Each day, we will go to different situations or environments to take photographs. Sometimes that will involve some drive time in the cars. There are abandoned farms that inspire intriguing photographs, and we will definitely take some time to photograph nature and landscapes on hikes in the area. We might visit the Palouse Falls, which is an impressive waterfall, especially at this time of year, and is set in a wonderful canyon. We will also be photographing the wheat fields in the area, which, especially at sunset, are fantastic. Part of the fun of a small town is getting to know it, and we will be exploring the downtown area and the Whitman College campus through photography. In short, this trip is about exploring Eastern Washington, and small towns, and the outdoors, with cameras always in hand. 


Flying Horseshoe Ranch
Leaders: Jennifer Haase and Andrew Lovejoy

Smell the Ponderosa Pines, hear the campfire crackling, ride horses along mountain trails, go whitewater rafting on the Yakima River, swim in the Ranch swimming pool, hike near the beautiful Stuart Range, and explore the coal mining history of Roslyn.  Join me for an adventurous week on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. We will be staying in sleeping cabins at Flying Horseshoe Ranch near Cle Elum, Washington. During our stay, we will cook meals in a cowboy-style cookhouse and spend our days and evenings exploring the ranch and surrounding mountains on foot, on horseback, and by raft.

During the week, we will go on three different two-hour trail rides (the horse trails are on the hillside above the sleeping cabins). No horseback riding experience is necessary, as the first trail ride will start with a riding lesson. We will also be spending one day rafting the Upper Yakima River with guides from Rill Adventures. This section of the river flows through the foothills of the Cascade Mountains between Cle Elum and Thorp. Some things we may get to experience on the river trip include a 20-foot jumping rock, a railroad tunnel, lots of swimming, and the only set of class II rapids on the Yakima.

Other adventures include exploring the Coal Miner’s Trail and the Roslyn Museum (we will see old mine entrances and other artifacts from the late 1800’s at the museum and on the trail), and taking some short hikes (including possibly a night hike to listen to owls and other wildlife in the ranch forests). There will also be time for journaling, reading, field games or board games, campfires, and swimming in the pool at the ranch.


Smith Rock Climbing Adventure
Leaders: Colleen Carroll, David Maron, Bill Agnew, Brooke Frickleton

Hyla has a great culture of climbing but most of that is done inside on climbing walls. This Exploration Week, we invite you to join us as we climb outside on real rock! On Monday we will drive to beautiful Smith Rock, near Bend, Oregon, and set up camp for a week of climbing. We will spend our days challenging ourselves, improving our climbing skills, and enjoying the high desert environment. This trip is open to all levels of climbers because there is something for everyone at Smith Rock. Depending on group interest, we may also spend some time hiking and exploring other activities the Bend/Sisters area has to offer. Hyla will provide all the necessary climbing equipment.


Leaders: Cooper Rooks, Kris Van Gieson, Jenine Adam

We’ll be surfing at Hobuck Beach a few miles west of Neah Bay, Washington.  The campground at Hobuck is right next to the beach with the ocean about fifty yards from our tents at high tide.   Hobuck Beach is a great place to learn to surf because it has a gently sloping sandy bottom.  The beach is south-facing so the larger northwest swells are reduced in size as they wrap around the point.  We will be living, camping, and surfing outdoors all week.  There is running water for toilets and drinking water.  We will also hold an optional (but very helpful) session in the pool to practice some of the basic skills away from the ocean waves.  This helps speed up the learning process.  No previous surfing experience is necessary but it is important to be a strong swimmer and to be willing to be dunked under by waves.   There are some inherent risks in surfing.  We will do our best to minimize those risks by teaching and emphasizing safe surfing practices and having watchful adults surfing with the students. 

Surfing is physically demanding.  It is challenging to push out through waves, turn, paddle, and get up on a surfboard.  It requires mental focus. Surfers have to read the ever-changing size and shape of waves and keep a safe distance from other surfers.   Simply living outside requires dealing with whatever nature provides. There are group learning opportunities as well. The challenge of being tired and hungry and needing to cook for the group emphasizes the importance of putting forth effort for the good of others.  We also take time at the end of each day to share our successes, challenges, and appreciations.


Portland Culinary Arts
Leaders: Melissa Dempsey

This is a trip combining the art of cooking with the quirkiness of Portland. But why should I learn how to cook in Portland you ask?  Well, here are the top ten reasons:

  • Because it’s cool and creative
  • You’ll develop great knife skills
  • You’ll know exactly what’s in your food
  • You can eat healthy foods without even trying
  • Your friends will be happy when you bake cakes for their birthdays
  • Your family will be so impressed
  • Everyone at school will love you because you can bring freshly baked goods
  • You won’t have to depend on instant ramen everyday
  • Or pizza delivery for dinner
  • Did I mention how much fun Portland is?

We’ll be chefs by day, taking three classes at the Portland Culinary Workshop:Knife Techniques, Basics of Cooking, and Baking Techniques, and explorers of Portland’s culture by evening. We’ll sample some of the city’s international restaurants and the city’s amazing selection of food trucks. And of course we won’t leave out Voodoo Doughnuts. There will also be time to experience the sights and sounds of Portland – Powell’s Books, the Japanese Gardens, and the Rose Gardens just to mention a few. During elective time is when we’ll decide on the sights we want to experience.If you like food – cooking and eating it – and will enjoy exploring the city of Portland, you’re welcome on this culinary adventure.