By Melanie Casey, special to WSU Extension

SAN JUAN ISLANDS, Wash. – It was an outdoor classroom, an experience in learning by doing known to educators as “experiential education.” But for the six Joint Base Lewis-McChord teens taking part in a wooden sailing ship adventure to the San Juan Islands recently, it was mostly just fun.
The second in a series of “high adventure” outings with the new Military Teen Adventure Camps Program, the two-day trip saw the teens and their chaperones embark on a Puget Sound voyage aboard a 52-foot classic ketch wooden sailboat, the S.V. Cutty Sark.
The program is facilitated by the Washington State University Extension 4-H Youth Development Program. It is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense in partnership with the Office of Military Community & Family Policy and U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food & Agriculture.
“The goal is to get teens out into the woods and let them have an adventure, make friends that share their experience and learn some technical and life skills along the way,” said Kevin Wright, state program manager, 4-H Youth Development.
The group sailed from Whidbey Island through Deception Pass to James Island State Park, a small, uninhabited island in the San Juans.
Once docked, the teens unloaded their gear and then pulled together to form a cohesive team. They discussed where to set up their tents, when to eat dinner, where to hike and more.
Trip leaders watched from the sidelines as the teens struggled with some issues, intervening only when safety was an issue.
In addition to learning the difference between “port” and “starboard,” how to start a Coleman stove and how to wash dishes without running water, the teens took away an array of life skills. Those included communication, problem solving, building trusting relationships and working in a group, said leader Kevin Powers, director of the WSU Extension 4-H Eco-Stewardship Program who has been leading teens on trips such as this one for more than 10 years.
The program kicked off last month. Upcoming trips in Washington include:
* Ropes course/Methow River rafting, Chelan and Okanogan counties, June 15-19.
* Mountains to sound adventure camp, Camp Robbinswold (20 miles west of Bremerton), June 26-July 2.
* Camping/hiking/wilderness trips, various Cascade Mountains locations, July 11-15 and 25-29, Aug. 8-12 and 15-19.
* Mazama Outward Bound base camp wilderness experience, Aug. 1-5.
* Cutty Sark wooden sailing ship adventure, San Juan Islands, Sept. 17-18 and 24-25.
For more information and registration for any of the trips, visit or contact Kevin Powers at 509-667-6540 or