Classroom of the Earth (COE)

There’s nothing like the original! Our Classroom of the Earth (COE) program was groundbreaking 25 years ago, and there’s still nothing quite like it anywhere else!The wilderness gets wilder as our students get older, and each trip builds skills to tackle the next one. Nature hikes on the school’s campus in PreK give way to the 8th grade ten-day adventure in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. During their years at Good Shepherd, our students will have hiked over 50 miles, traveled over 5,000 miles, canoed 10 miles, and rafted 11 miles, and experienced much more than nature study. This is real-world education going beyond the walls of our everyday lives.

Students experience a challenging and inspiring self-discovery out in the wilderness, and you’ll be amazed at the places they go and the growth as they venture out of their comfort zones!

In all our COE programming, we teach and follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace (LNT):

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

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COE Trip Schedules and Highlights


PreK: Good Shepherd Campus

May 13

Introducing COE to our PreK students while on campus. They will get to explore the world in our planetarium, tour our gear room and trailer, play in tents, as well as enjoy s’mores, grilled cheese sandwiches, and lemonade!!


Kindergarten: Heard Museum, McKinney, TX

October 29-30

This is our first off-campus COE trip. Students go to the Heard Museum and explore the area inside and out. Learn about dinosaurs, maybe even wake up a sleeping T-Rex! It is a full day of outdoor education!


Primer: River Legacy Nature Center, Arlington, TX

May 19

The last trip of the school year, students travel to River Legacy outdoor learning center in Arlington. The students have a blast on the trails, as well as learn about the different animals, plants, and insects in that area.

1st Grade

First Grade: Fort Worth Nature Center, Fort Worth, TX

March 10, 11, and 12

We travel to Fort Worth and spend the day at the Fort Worth Nature Center hiking through the prairie grass, looking for tracks and scat, visiting the prairie dog town, and, of course, searching for Bison!

2nd Grade

Second Grade: Cedar Hill State Park  Cedar Hill, TX

October 1, 2 and 3

We travel to south Dallas and spend the day at the Trinity River Audubon Center: a very interesting place with lots to offer! Our students learn about water, what things are in our water, how and why water travels, where honey comes from, as well as how to get dirty exploring some mud! The Trinity River Audubon Center has a very interesting past and is a good example of how to turn a once-neglected piece of land into a beautiful and sustainable area!

3rd Grade

Third Grade: Eisenhower State Park & Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Sherman/Denison, TX

November 4-5, 5-6, and 6-7

The first overnight COE trip! Students board the bus after school and travel to Eisenhower State Park, where we explore the night sky, learn about sleeping in our sleeping bags, and why it is important to stay on top of your sleeping pads! Of course, we have s'mores at night! The next day, we wake up and cook breakfast, then head over to the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge for a chance to look for their resident bald eagles, as well as learn more about the importance of a wildlife refuge. Finally, we will eat lunch in the butterfly garden before heading back to campus.

4th Grade

Fourth Grade: Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, TX

April 21-22, 23-24, and 27-28

Dinosaurs! Yes, we will see a real dinosaur chase scene from many, many moons ago! Traveling and playing along the way in the Paluxy River, we will chase crawfish, swim in the "blue hole," as well as enjoy s'mores and apply lots of sunscreen! This trip marks the first time students will sleep overnight in tents. The students will learn about tent set up and take down, as well as proper care for their tents and equipment. 

5th Grade

Fifth Grade: Quartz Mountain Nature Park, OK

October 16-18 and 21-23

We will head north to Quartz Mountain in Oklahoma. Students will learn how to tie in and climb safely, as well as experience day and night hikes. They will also learn some valuable canoe paddling skills!

6th Grade

Sixth Grade: Goose Island State Park, Rockport, TX

January 22-25 and 27-30

Students will enjoy a 4-day trip to Goose Island State Park where we will stay in tents, study marine biology, tour CCC buildings, and learn flat-water kayaking skills. After a day of learning inside the park, students will travel to the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington for a day of hands-on education. On the last day, students will explore Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown before returning to campus.

7th Grade

Seventh Grade:  Buffalo National River Trail, NW Arkansas

March 23-28 and March 30-April 4

Northwest Arkansas, along the Buffalo National River, is a beautiful and wondrous place! Here is where students will learn more about backpacking, changes in weather, cooking, cleaning, and traveling as a group on their 3-4 day backpack. This trip is giving them the skills they will need in August for their 8th grade trip to Colorado!

8th Grade

Eighth Grade: Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO

August 20-29

This is it! The big trip for which we have been preparing our students since they were in PreK! A total of 10 days in Colorado: this is how the 8th grade students will start their final year at Good Shepherd. Our students will enjoy Cheley as base camp in Estes Park, CO. Rock climbing, day hikes, and a 5-day backpack in the Rocky Mountains is a great way to kick off their 8th grade experience! This trip is where they put all the skills to work on their backpack, and expedition behavior is key!

Expedition Behavior
"Doing your part to make the whole expedition succeed," including practicing good self-care and lending a hand when needed.

2018-19 PHOTOS