Outdoor Education and Class Trips

Experiential education is a hallmark of the Durham Academy experience. Middle and Upper Schoolers begin each school year with overnight, outdoor trips designed to help students get to know their teachers, advisors and classmates. Establishing a cooperative, friendly and supportive sense of community is important as children begin a new phase of their schooling and personal development. The skills fostered in overnight trips beginning in Middle School culminate with Senior Challenge, a six-day backpacking adventure in the North Carolina mountains.

5th Grade: Camp Hanes

The Thursday and Friday before Labor Day Weekend marks a very significant event for fifth-graders: their first overnight school trip! This experience takes place at Camp Hanes, a 400-acre outdoor education center located at the base of Sauratown Mountain. The goal is to establish a cooperative, friendly and supportive sense of community as fifth-graders begin a new phase of their schooling and personal development. 

Activities include team-building exercises, hiking, a water zipline, primitive survival skills, canoeing, and plenty of time for advisory bonding.

6th Grade: Camp Cheerio

Each year, the entire sixth-grade class travels to Camp Cheerio, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. On this trip. students create new friendships, renew relationships with old friends, get to know their teachers, and increase their self-confidence by overcoming mental and physical obstacles. 

7th Grade: Falls Lake & Washington

Seventh-graders kick off the year with a trip to Falls Lake for a day of bonding and recreation. 

For more than 30 years, the seventh grade has traveled to Washington, D.C., in February, bringing their study of American history to life. Students spend three days and two nights in our nation's capitol, seeing everything they possibly can and bonding with classmates. 

8th Grade: Durham Challenge

 Eighth-graders will spend their time together participating in the inaugural Durham Challenge. The service-learning experience will focus on addressing a need or problem identified by a nonprofit, local organization in Durham. Students will participate in age-appropriate activities that help them gain a better understanding of the overarching community need the nonprofit is addressing, the clients the nonprofit serves and how the nonprofit functions. Students will ultimately develop and present a prototype of a solution to address the identified community need or problem and spend the year implementing that solution with the guidance of the nonprofit.

9th Grade: Eastern NC 4H Center


2017 marks the 9th grade's inaugural class trip to the Eastern NC 4H Center in Tyrrell County, North Carolina. This ‘inner banks’ setting on the shoreline of Bulls Bay offers a natural and cultural setting that is unique within our Grades 5 through 12 Outdoor Education sequence.

The Center is supervised and operated by well trained and experienced staff from the North Carolina State University 4H extension service, a program that has been providing outdoor education and character building programs for youth groups for more than 80 years.

The new program allows incoming Upper School students to bond both as advisory and whole class groups during challenge and recreational activities on the Center's property. In addition, the students will experience, perhaps for the first time, the nearby protected wetlands, which include Lake Phelps State Park and large tracts of Peatland White Cedar/Cypress forest, via hiking and kayaking.

In addition, our new program will allow students to directly bridge their outdoor educational experience with their academic year. While on the trip, students will begin their Biology course curriculum under the supervision of DA Science Faculty and educational specialists from NC State while studying within the ‘best-equipped’ biological laboratory there is; the natural world.

10th Grade: High Rocks

Among the goals of the 10th grade's trip to High Rocks in Brevard are to help students gain an appreciation for group problem-solving dynamics and, in the process, gain respect, tolerance and sensitivity for fellow classmates. Another important focus of this trip is to help prepare students for their Senior Challenge experience; participants learn basic compass and topographical map-reading skills and controlled rock-climbing skills. Students are also challenged with a high ropes course and whitewater-rafting experience.

11th Grade: Civil Rights Tour

The Civil Rights Tour is a departure from the usual outdoor education experiences students have had heretofore. We meet with the foot soldiers of the movement at the various sites we visit in Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham to have the experience of history that can best happen by standing in the places in which it was made. Because this is a more emotional than physical experience, we hold nightly debriefing and reflection sessions in advisory groups.

12th Grade: Senior Challenge

Since the fall of 1979, the senior class at Durham Academy has begun the school year with a wilderness adventure that seeks to challenge each student both physically and emotionally as a way to help them better understand and appreciate who they are, what they are capable of and what responsibility to self and others entails. Some seniors have their Senior Challenge experience in the shadows of the Black Mountains near Mt. Mitchell, and some journey through the ancient Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. 

An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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