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Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education experiences are a hallmark of the Keys program, remembered long after students graduate. The sense of achievement that comes from facing fears and overcoming challenges is hard-won and persists over time. These excursions build character and foster a deep sense of trust and community. As students experience the excitement and adventure of exploring remote places, they also develop confidence, responsibility, and appreciation for environmentalism.

Yearly trips are carefully designed to foster students' intellectual, social, and physical development in age-appropriate ways. The experiences increase in length, distance, and challenge, and complexity. Each trip is integrated with the core curriculum, with professional naturalists accompanying Keys teachers to help provide in-depth environmental experiences that complement classroom learning.

Highlights of the program include:


  • » Experience an overnight trip to Costanoa; explore tide pools and other coastal habitats.

First Grade

  • » Spend a night at Elkus Ranch and learn about environmental science, history, animal care, nutrition, and agriculture in a rural setting.

Second Grade

  • » Learn about ecology, interdependence and sustainability at Hidden Villa; hike under the stars as part of the overnight experience.

Third Grade

  • » Take a multi-day trip to Mount Cross to conduct stream studies within the coastal redwood ecosystem; tackle the challenge course and other teambuilding exercises.

Fourth Grade

  • » Explore the coastal ecosystem at Point Reyes National Seashore; learn about the traditions and sustainable practices of native peoples.
  • » Take a multi-day trip to Indian Grinding Rock State Park in the Sierra Nevada foothills to investigate natural and cultural history.

Fifth Grade

  • » Explore the unique features of the coastal redwood ecosystem while hiking, tide pooling and camping in Big Sur.
  • » Spend multiple days exploring the natural features, ecosystems and biological diversity of Yosemite National Park; learn about the park's history and the ongoing efforts to protect and preserve it.

Sixth Grade

  • » Take a multi-day trip to Skylark Ranch; experience physical challenge and teambuilding on the high ropes course.
  • » Spend several days camping, rock climbing and exploring the remnants of an ancient volcanic field in Pinnacles National Park.

Seventh Grade

  • » Hike and camp at Mono Lake; investigate its unique alkaline ecosystem, and ongoing efforts to protect the basin from water diversion and erosion.
  • » Kayak to Angel Island for a multi-night camping trip designed to build leadership skills and extend environmental science and immigration studies.

Eighth Grade

  • » Advance leadership and wilderness skills on a multi-day King's Canyon backpacking trip.
  • » Visit Catalina Island and explore its ecology; participate in individual and cooperative challenges involving hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking.
Keys School - Lower Campus · 2890 Middlefield Road · Palo Alto, CA · 94306
Keys School - Middle Campus · 3981 El Camino Real · Palo Alto, CA · 94306

Phone: 650-328-1711