BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Outside Beckley Stratton Middle School on Tuesday morning, September 12, 2023, buses were lined up, waiting to take Beckley-Stratton Middle School sixth graders to Science Adventure School, a three-night sleepaway school which focuses on science lessons in the great outdoors.

The sleepaway school is a partnership of West Virginia University Outdoor Education Center, Summit Bechtel Reserve and Jackson Mill 4-H. Students spend four days outdoors, receiving STEM instruction in an outdoor curriculum which incorporate outdoor recreational activities like hiking, rock climbing and canoeing.

Students waited indoors on Tuesday morning, where they met with friends and discussed their hopes for Science Adventure School.

“I love being out in nature. I love doing outdoor activities, so I just wanted to go out in the world, explore more,” said Rohan Patel.

Abby Elder said she wants to canoe because she loves the water, but others in her group aren’t as happy about getting wet.

“I really want to spend time with my family, because my cousin’s here,” Abby said. “I think I’m going to make a lot of new friends.”

Students across the state now participate, but, in 2017,  Beckley Stratton Middle School was the first school in the state to welcome the program, thanks to principal Johan Smith, who met with state education leaders, and teachers Angela Mazzella and Valerie Bostick, who got students involved.

“[Smith] approached me and Ms. Bostic, about six or seven years ago, and asked us if we would like to do this,” recalled Mazzella. “We knew nothing about it, and we’re like, sure. Here we are, six years later.”

She said the teachers recruited about 30 students in 2017. On Tuesday, around 150 sixth-graders were planning to attend.

“They’re super excited about going,” said Bostick. “We have so many students that, have, like never even been away from home. I have parents and grandparents saying that their children have never even spent the night with anybody else, so it’s just really neat.”

It’s not just students looking forward to their first trip to the camp: Smith said he was planning to see will Science Adventure School from an entirely new perspective.

“This is going to be my first trip over there, and they’ve always tried to get me to go over there, but this is a special year, because my son is a sixth grader and I want to do it this time,” the principal said.

Smith said parents and the community may visit Beckley Stratton Middle School’s Facebook page to get updates about students’ adventures at Science Adventure School.