Auburn School District's Camp Auburn has literally been a pioneer in environmental studies for it is the oldest, consecutively run outdoor recreation program in the nation. In 1949, a young sixth grade teacher, Gene Craig, was hired by the district to plan and implement an outdoors camp for sixth graders. The first camp was held in the spring of 1950 and was an immediate success with students, parents and teachers. By the 1970s, the district was garnering national attention for its leadership in environmental programs.
Over the years, Camp Auburn has changed its site, its curriculum and even the grade level of its campers (from sixth to fifth graders as middle schools were implemented in the district). The one thing that has not changed is the heartfelt support that the children, parents, teachers and administrators have for the program. Auburn School District has continued to provide this outstanding program because of the educational benefits to students. In a day and age of technology-driven entertainment, Camp Auburn offers all Auburn School District fifth graders the opportunity to experience rowing a boat, observing Northwest flora and fauna in their natural setting and learning survival skills such as shelter-building. Singing and socializing around a campfire that they have built instills confidence in young campers and an awareness of the importance of nature.
Currently, the camp is held at a conference center on a private lake near Ravensdale, but in years past, it has been held at Hood Canal, Vashon Island and Lake Tapps. The curriculum changes with the different sites, but the high quality of the program remains constant. Today, the camp curriculum is aligned with the Washington State benchmark standards.
Another reason for the high quality of the camp is the involvement of high school students who are the camp counselors and rovers for the fifth grade campers. They continually stay with the campers throughout the week and work with them on applying the skills they have learned in class such as knot-tying or rope-making. They also make the camp a lot of fun for the young campers. The high school students are really an important, integral part of Camp Auburn.