Experiential Education

At Dawson, you’ll find that skills and knowledge frequently are driven through real world experience.  The school dedicates one week each August and March to experiential education because constructing meaning from experience is essential to the intellectual and social development of students.


Freshmen Camping

Freshmen take a trip to Brainard Lake where they hike, rock climb, and work together in teams to accomplish camping duties.This trip integrates new and returning students, focuses on the transition to the upper school and/or to a new school, builds community, interacts with others in groups, develops decision-making, and expands wilderness awareness.  Freshmen will focus on the trip and throughout the year on the meaning of respect.

Sophomore Community Service

Sophomores perform community service projects throughout Boulder County and gain a greater understanding of the service aspects of the Dawson program. The participate in team building, group decision-making, and serving others.  Students learn about the importance of empathy in our work together as a school community. Sophomores will focus on the trip and throughout the year on the meaning of compassion.

Junior Leadership 

An expeditionary seminar in positive communication and responsibility, juniors travel in canoes from western Colorado to eastern Utah down the Colorado River. This experience prepares them for leadership and personal responsibility to the school community while they explore personal and group responsibility, problem solving, group dynamics, decision-making, leadership skill development, and positive communication.  Juniors will focus on the trip and throughout the year on the meaning of courage and leadership.

Senior Backpacking

As students begin their final year at Dawson, this trip establishes a theme of challenge and independence as trip leaders charge the seniors to move to a more definitive leadership role on campus. In the Indian Peaks Wilderness, students camp and hike in small groups before coming together on the final night. Seniors discuss their responsibilities in the school community as role models and leaders. The goal of this trip is to challenge self and others, develop leadership skills, work effectively with others, reflect on the upper school experience, look ahead to challenges that senior year will bring, set goals for the year, learn group dynamics, and solve problems. Seniors will focus on the trip and throughout the year on the meaning of integrity.


A highly-anticipated, weeklong experiential learning program that provides 7th–12th grade students with the opportunity to explore a wide range of educational options outside of the classroom, Winterim is one of the experiences that makes Dawson unique.

With local, domestic and international experiences, Winterim strengthens the regular classroom curriculum by drawing students and teachers into opportunities that help bridge the gap between theory and real life.  Faculty-designed programs support the mission of the school by requiring students to stretch themselves in mind, body, and character while exploring their education from an active, experiential perspective that goes beyond the conventional walls of the classroom.