High School Electives


outdoor and experiential education grades 9-12

There has been significant evidence coming to light in the last 20 years that shows conclusively the impact of outdoor, environmental, and experiential learning on the performance of students in high school. Students who participate in these programs do as well or better than their peers in core skills like math, language, spelling and science by an overall margin of 96%. Despite this information, new regulations are making it harder for schools to provide their own outdoor programs.

Black Oak Wilderness School provides the highest quality outdoor and experiential high school elective programs. All our programs meet the standards of rigorous STEAM education and are ready for schools to submit for UC approval. We know the impact of this type of education because we see it first hand everyday, and we believe that every student has the right to access an education that improves their chances of receiving higher education.


Wilderness Leadership

Wilderness Leadership has two sections. The first is a local outdoor classroom section in which students learn first aid, tool safety, trip planning, basic camping skills, and group leadership skills. The second section consists of 3-5 day camping trips designed together with students during which they learn to apply the skills they've learned in a real setting. They set up their own tents, plan lessons, cook together, clean together, and learn basic survival skills together. Black Oak Wilderness School provides camping gear, food, and arranges transportation.


Adventure Science explores various sciences like physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, environmental science, and math through traditional crafts and project based learning. Students participate in projects like woodworking, blacksmithing, leather working, felting, sewing, emergency medicine, and flintknapping (stone tool making). The year culminates in a 3-5 day camping trip during which students learn to use the tools they've made for traditional living and survival skills.


Bike Shop is one of our most popular classes. Students gain a sense of independence and a firm understanding of machine mechanics through learning how to repair bicycles hands on. We have a full scale bike shop and equipment for 20 students to take apart, explore, repair, and build bikes from scratch. Students also learn about bike safety, riding technique, bike geometry, traffic laws, and participate in group rides accompanied by instructors to explore their neighborhoods and communities in a safe and controlled setting. 

Local Wilderness

Local Wilderness focuses on Bay Area specific ecology, culture, history, and environmentalism. Students learn about what makes this such a unique place through a mix of hands on project based learning and field trips to local natural areas and culturally significant sites. They are encouraged to research and test tools that might have been used by both indigenous people and European colonizers to live with the specific challenges and resources that the greater Bay Area provides.

Our classes, however, are not limited to these programs. We can also offer custom made curriculum in any of the following areas and more!

  • Gardening/Farming/Permaculture

  • Experimental Archaeology

  • Wilderness Survival

  • Blacksmithing

  • Archery

  • Basketry

  • Animal Tracking/ Animal Behavior

  • Wild Plant Identification

  • Herbalism and Natural Medicines

  • Bow and Arrow Making

  • Campfire/Traditional Cooking

  • Raising Animals for Food

  • Hide Tanning

  • Leather Working

  • Knife Safety and Carving

  • Canoeing, Kayaking, and Rafting

  • Backpacking

  • Basic Camping

  • Outdoor Leadership/Careers in Nature

  • Forest Ecology

  • Bike Touring/Camping

  • Nature Photography

  • Expedition Planning

  • Stone/Bone/Antler Tools

  • Hand Sewing

  • Compass Navigation/ Cartography

  • Disaster Preparedness

Our Schools

  • Tamalpais High School

  • K2 High School

  • Shasta High School

  • Tahoma High School

  • Everest High School

  • Denali High School

BOWS is a queer owned and operated business. We welcome students of all race, nationality, sex, gender, religion, sexual preference, relationship style, age, and ability. Nature is for everyone.

Created, licensed, and copyrighted by

Dane Nelson

Black Oak Wilderness School Incorporated

Established November 2017

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