In the Head-Royce middle and upper schools, the usual sights of books, backpacks, and supplies aren’t what you see on the first week of school. Instead, students come to campus equipped with sweaters, sleeping bags, and camping supplies; they’re preparing for an overnight away from both their campus and their homes which has become a beloved annual tradition.
For the past several decades, 6–12 grade students get to venture off on “Fallout” trips— excursions into the Northern California wilderness intended to help students bond with one another and their teachers—setting a positive tone of the school year. Activities include often-challenging outdoor activities that reinforce teamwork.
“Initially, the 50 new 6th-graders seem new, but by the end of the trip, it’s hard to tell who is new to HRS and who isn’t. After Fallout, I have often asked kids how long they have known each other because they seem so comfortable with one another, and they will say they had just met. It’s really nice to see,” Middle School Head Linda Hoopes said.
Each grade ventures off to a different area of Northern California—from the Westminster Woods to the American River and several places in between—where they camp, raft, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. But it’s not the activities they remember the most.
“The view of the ocean crashing against the rocks was incredible,” Francesca P. ’25 said.
“It was nice being by water, but the laughter of my friends and playing volleyball was the best part. I think I was happiest at those times,” Raven R. ’25 said.
Upper School students participate in similar activities, but they have the added benefit of getting the opportunity to craft their personal statement and goals for the school-year ahead.
“We go river rafting, swimming, boating, mountain biking, ropes climbing, hiking and other camp activities. In addition, with our freshmen, we practice mindfulness and discuss our personal goals for high school,” Upper School Head Carl Thiermann said.
Following Fallout, many students have in-class opportunities to reflect on their experiences. In Middle School English classes, for instance, students wrote short poems about their adventures outdoors with their classmates. These poems are currently on display in the Middle School hallway.