Grade Levels

Revealing the Naturalist Intelligence through the Study of Nature

“The pattern recognizing talents of artists, poets, social scientists, and natural scientists are all built on the fundamental perceptual skills of the naturalist intelligence”Howard Gardner identifying the eighth form of intelligence in his recent book Intelligence Reframed

High Sierra Outdoor Institute was specifically created to provide outdoor education programs with an emphasis on experiential learning. The curriculum is designed to meet California State Standards for 5th through 8th grades in the areas of natural sciences, physical sciences, earth sciences, movement concepts, social interaction and group dynamics. The primary focus is on the development of critical thinking skills, interpersonal relationship skills, self-confidence through individual achievement, and foundational leadership skills, employing the integration of hands-on academic classes with challenging team building exercises and high ropes adventure course elements. Class content and discussion includes correlation between observations in the natural environment and practical application of scientific method.

To ensure adherence to State Science Content Standards and that class content is suited to the intellectual and emotional development of the students participating, our curriculum is divided into the following Grade Level designations:

rockclimberFifth Grade: CHALLENGERS

A Challenger: pursues difficult but stimulating tasks that test ones abilities and resources.
5th Grade Characteristics

  • Need outdoor time and physical challenge
  • Appetite for food, physical activity and talking
  • Fairness issues are forefront, developing more mature sense of right and wrong
  • Enjoys debate
  • Expressive, likes to explain
  • Likes rules and logic
  • Oppositional, tests limits

California State Science Content Standards: focus on physical, life, and earth sciences in approximately equal measures


A Pathfinder: discovers a new course through unexplored regions or fields of knowledge.
6th Grade Characteristics

  • Restlessness, physical activity and sports valued
  • Does well away from home
  • Enthusiastic, uninhibited
  • Impulsive
  • Enjoys conversations with adults and peers
  • May show emerging ability in a particular skill or content area
  • Prefers new tasks and experiences to reflection or revision of previous work

California State Science Content Standards: stimulate intellectual curiosity in the area of earth sciences and environmental awareness.

Seventh Grade: TREKKERS

A Trekker: embarks on a difficult journey requiring tenacity to reach established goals.
7th Grade Characteristics

  • Growth spurts
  • High Energy
  • Self-aware, insightful
  • Double meanings, word play, of intellectual interest
  • Protective of developing self-concept
  • Can set realistic goals in the short-term
  • Like to challenge intellectual as well as social authority

California State Science Content Standards: focus on life sciences to complement health education and to prepare a foundation for High School biology.

8thEighth Grade: OUTRIDERS

An Outrider: goes out in advance to investigate and discover a new way.
8th Grade Characteristics

  • High physical energy
  • Need for physical exercise and snacking
  • Humor highlighted by growth in sarcasm
  • Like a busy schedule with as much to do as possible
  • Will engage in more group discussions
  • Responds well to academic variety and challenge
  • Aware of problems in the larger world, invested in finding solutions and learning more

California State Science Content Standards: focus on physical sciences in preparation for physics and chemistry in upper High School.