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College of Communication & Education

First Time Freshman Learn Civic Duties

More than 200 first-time freshman attended one of the three Camp Wildcat weekend trips with faculty and student mentors at the beginning of the fall semester. Camp Wildcat is a field school that was created as a co-curricular experience to complement California State University, Chico’s traditional freshman classroom experience.

These out-of-class experiences are designed to enhance the in-class content, but also go further to create hands-on opportunities for students to explore the general education pathway topic and possible majors and careers related to the pathway. There is no additional cost to students.

Camp Wildcat is a program for incoming freshmen led by faculty and peer leaders from the Department of Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management and the Office of Student Life and Leadership. Camp Wildcat consists of a three-day field school trip to Camp Discovery Group Campground in Red Bluff, which is part of the Mendocino National Forest. The three-day program is composed of outdoor classrooms where new students can meet, form bonds, and experience activities they may never have been exposed to.

CSU, Chico’s Department of Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management offers several field schools throughout the year. Students learn about sustainability, community, and career opportunities at Camp Discovery through various types of projects—of which can include learning how to build footbridges, picnic tables, bunkhouse shutters, and pump houses, and even how to repair sprinkler systems.

Students from all majors can earn one unit of course credit to participate in meaningful outdoor exploration and service-learning activities in our state's national lands. After participating in field school, some students decide to major in recreation administration with an option in parks and natural resources management. Field school is a great way to introduce students to the major program and prepare them for future professional work.

“There are freshmen-level classes that have general education pathways, specifically Health & Wellness, Equity, and Sustainability. These weekend workshops give students a chance to learn about these topics in a different light and setting,” said graduate student and Camp Wildcat leader Gary Day. “The aim is to be supplemental to the students’ general education classes they are enrolled in and offer different ways to learn and understand those pathways.”

Students are introduced to Camp Wildcat through the Office of Student Life and Leadership and is part of their first year experience.    

Camp Wildcat offers five outdoor rotating classrooms, where smaller groups of students take turns in each outdoor class every 45 minutes. Some classes include learning about wildlife conservation, or how to responsibly build and extinguish a fire while working in pairs. Students also take part in a climate change ribbon project where students share values and concerns on a ribbon and tie them to a tree. Then another student picks a ribbon from the tree to lay claim to the other person’s worries about the changing climate.

Camp Wildcat students also participate in a number of camp activities. At the most recent camp, students worked together to learn how to set up tents, engaged in group games and nature walks together, and also took photo walks and entered into a U.S. Forest Service photo contest to show younger people enjoying our national parks. Students also enjoyed the opportunities for play. Freshmen tried to balance their way across slack lines while holding on to an unsteady line above their heads as other students made sure they didn’t fall. Camp Wildcat topped the camp experience off with Nerf softball, football, cornhole, and sing-along games to increase opportunities to bond and make friends.

After some time, the group games, activities, and team-building projects allowed students to open up to one another and the peer leaders, forming lasting friendships and career aspirations as they begin their education at CSU, Chico. More information about Camp Wildcat can be found on the web for the Office of Student Life and Leadership.

students balance on slack line
Students learn to balance on the slack-line


students go on walk
Students take a hike at Camp Discovery during National Lands Day.


camp wildcat leaders
Undergraduate and graduate peer leaders volunteer to mentor new Chico State students.


students perform group activities
Students from the Recreation, Hospitality and Parks Management program work with
freshman on group activities.