Ridgefield schools celebrate 50 years at Cispus Outdoor School

Cispus Outdoor School lets students enjoy a week of school in the great outdoors, sleeping in cabins, gathering around bonfires, and taking classes about the environment

RIDGEFIELD — Word spread quickly among the campers:  “Cake! I heard there’s cake!” In fact, there were five beautiful sheet cakes, a gift from the Cispus camp staff to celebrate Ridgefield’s 50th anniversary at the outdoor school. 

Flannel shirts were designed for staff to commemorate Ridgefield's 50th anniversary with Cispus Outdoor School this year. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools
Flannel shirts were designed for staff to commemorate Ridgefield’s 50th anniversary with Cispus Outdoor School this year. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools

Cispus Director Chase Buffington and Ridgefield School District Superintendent Dr. Nathan McCann addressed the students for a few moments about the 50-year tradition.  But Superintendent McCann knew his audience of fifth graders. “I’ll keep my remarks short,’ he said, smiling, “because I know you want to get to the cake.”

Cispus Outdoor School lets students enjoy a week of school in the great outdoors, sleeping in cabins, gathering around bonfires, and taking classes about the environment.  The program is designed to give students a real appreciation of nature, as well as a taste of independence. Founded in 1969 by John Hudson, Sr., the principal of Union Ridge Elementary School, Ridgefield has one of the longest running outdoor school programs in the northwest. 

Special 50th anniversary day packs and T-shirts were given to Ridgefield students at Cispus Outdoor Camp this year. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools
Special 50th anniversary day packs and T-shirts were given to Ridgefield students at Cispus Outdoor Camp this year. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools

Cispus alumni were invited on a campus tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary.  One of the alumni, Stephanie Natterstad, is the granddaughter of John Hudson, Sr. She took a day off from her job at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School to join the tour.  “It’s nice for our family to be part of such a long tradition,” she said. “I know he’d be proud to see it’s still going.” 

In honor of the event, each student received a special 50th anniversary T-shirt and day pack designed by Gary Hollingstead at Imagineering Graphics.  Staff members received 50th anniversary flannel shirts. 

Ridgefield School District celebrated 50 years of attending Cispus Outdoor School this week. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools
Ridgefield School District celebrated 50 years of attending Cispus Outdoor School this week. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield Public Schools

In McCann’s remarks, he noted that the students were joining a long legacy of Ridgefield residents who had attended Cispus as students, counselors, teachers, and volunteers.  “Whether you’ve lived in Ridgefield six months, six years, or six generations, you are now part of a fifty-year tradition that is important to our community.”

“Fifty years is a long time,” he continued.  “If I’m still around in fifty years, I hope they wheel me back in here so I can enjoy it.”   

Information provided by Ridgefield Public Schools.

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