December 11, 2019

Dear Betsy,

I could not speak more highly of Echo Hill's program and staff. Our school has been attending since 1990. I've been able to be one of the chaperones several times, so I've gotten to witness the program firsthand.

The program connects very well to our science curriculum and the experiential learning adds a depth the students wouldn't otherwise get. The teaching is superior. The other aspect of the program is team building which is accomplished through games and discussion. Our students return with a deeper closeness and connection.

Echo Hill hires teachers who are empathetic and kind as well as skilled. This year in particular stands out because of the effort several Echo Hill teachers made to accommodate all of our students. One of our students has a disability which seemingly would have prevented her from participating in a physical challenge. The staff made it possible for her to go on the giant swing as her peers did. The joy this powerful moment brought her will always be my favorite Echo Hill memory.

In appreciation,
Gail Kennedy
Director of Elementary Education
Grace Episcopal Day School
Kensington, MD

December 11, 2019

Dear Betsy,

After spending many years attending Echo Hill with fifth grade students for a week, I have noticed that there is a formula with how the week works. On Monday, the students arrive, a little nervous, but excited for this adventure.

Competent and enthusiastic Echo Hill teachers orient them to the schedule and sleeping quarters so students know what to expect. In no time, they are off on their first class, discovering the many resources on the campus. Whether they are on the Adventure One course, walking and canoeing through the swamp, boating on the Chesapeake Bay, or taking a survivor course on the beach, the students are engaged and interested. Each day is filled with outdoor classes, some leisure time, great meals, and silly songs and skits that teach lessons about saving our natural resources.

The staff is professional and takes a personal care in the girls. As the week progresses, the students become more independent, willing to take risks, and friendships strengthen among classmates. And it is not unusual that on the last day, there are tears on the bus ride home!

With thanks,
Katherine Gilbert
5th Grade Teacher
The Bryn Mawr School
Baltimore, MD

Westtown School

September 28, 2016

Dear Betsy and Pete,

Always a heart-filling experience to be there.

I copied below the email I wrote to the fifth grade parents this morning. I wanted you to hear what I said.

Much gratitude,

Dear Families,

I was lucky yesterday to be with everyone down at Echo Hill. The kids spent the day on the bay, in the marsh, on the beach, in the water and eating. Dinner was on the beach with campfires, hot dogs, salads, pasta along with a beautiful sunset. We had a Meeting for Worship on the bluff, above the beach, around a bigger campfire, after it grew dark. The sky was filled with stars, and the children offered appreciation for being able to be there. Smores were the right touch after Meeting for Worship.

Echo Hill is a magical place whose mission is to help children discover the joys of the natural world. Experiencing joy outdoors leads to the kind of scientific curiosity and personal devotion we are hoping children develop. When you know firsthand what lives in the natural world, you understand sustainability in a different way.

There's another benefit to three days away when you are in fifth grade. You realize that you can do it! Children feel resilience, independence, confidence and pure fun immersed in a culture of peers. As parents, you worry will they be ok. From what I saw yesterday, they are more than ok -- they are happy.

See you this afternoon,

Kristin Trueblood
Principal, Lower School

Westtown School
975 Westtown Road
West Chester, PA 19382-5700
Office: 610-399-7963
Fax: 610-399-7798

Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Visiting Teachers/School Administrators


June 27, 2013

Dear Betsy,

Thank you so much for arranging the wonderful array of activities for our kayaking class the other week: our students were mightily impressed! In discussions, journals and final projects, students said that their time at Echo Hill was one of the highlights of the trip. They were intrigued to hear about the history and mission of Echo Hill, and by being able to shadow your teachers working with their groups, they gained a deep understanding of what you're about.

You'll be pleased to hear that after volunteering at the Hazel Outdoor Center's “Get Outdoors” day two weeks after visiting you, giving kayak rides to young children, a number of students commented that the combination of our visit to Echo Hill and that firsthand experience working with children was causing them to rethink their future, and that they might go into environmental education. Our time with you highlighted the importance of environmental education in a way that could not be conveyed simply reading an article or watching a movie. You made a memorable and lasting impression on our students, and we really appreciate all of the time and effort you put into our time with you.

Though considerably wetter and stormier than the first time we ran this class the rest of our trip worked out smoothly: students got to see an amazing sequence of places, speakers and organizations and demonstrated that they got a lot out of the experience in their final projects.

We hope that next year you'll be up for another visit by our class!

Prof. Bill Nelson and Tom Horton
Salisbury University
Exploring Delmarva – A Water's-Eye View

“The program at Echo Hill is one of the most valuable educational experiences we have witnessed in four decades of teaching. By coupling experiences designed to heighten their awareness and appreciation of our fragile environment with rustic living, Echo Hill accomplishes that which others profess to do - have a profound impact upon children. Living together and learning to work as a cohesive unit to solve a myriad of challenges presented at Echo Hill has become a rite of passage in our urban community, one met by over three thousand students, spanning two generations. Through the efforts of the Echo Hill Outdoor School, our children have become not only aware of Pennsylvania's impact upon the Chesapeake Bay, but of our impact upon each other."
- Robert and Kristina Frick, Teachers (retired), Garrettford Elementary School, Drexel Hill, PA

“I have visited Echo Hill with fifth grade students for over 15 years. The children that I bring come thinking that they will learn about ecology, the Chesapeake Bay and their environment and they do, but they learn so much more. They learn so much about themselves and their ability to function outside the safety of their homes and school. At Echo Hill, they learn to interact with people they don't know very well and with the natural world, which they get to know better. They get to dig deep to try things that they never dreamed they could do.”
- Ellen Chamberlin, teacher, Chestertown Middle School, MD

“Children love Echo Hill and why not? They are given freedom to explore the outdoors and, in small groups, engage in meaningful hands-on learning that relates to their lives and their interests. They get dirty, see things they've never seen before, and do things they've never done before. Exhausted students return to the classroom with two gifts from Echo Hill's creative staff: a deeper knowledge of their environment and an enthusiastic desire to preserve it.”
- Lee Franklin, Teacher, Kennard Elementary, Centreville, MD

“As a teacher it is wonderful to see the students in a nontraditional learning environment like Echo Hill and to witness the enthusiasm and camaraderie that they bring to the various learning activities at the school. There are many team-building activities at the school, like Giant Swing and the Adventure I and II courses, and it is a joy to see the way that students learn to interact with their peers as they work together to meet the challenges that they are presented with. All of these things are wonderful life lessons that teach the children to work together to achieve a common goal.”
- Philip Zimmerman, Teacher, Roland Park Middle School, Baltimore, MD

“They love walking along the beach, feeling the wind on their skin, and finding treasures. What joy to be given permission to take home an oyster shell or a piece of sea glass.”
– Billie-Lynne Roberts, Teacher, Worton Elementary School Kent County, MD

“Although we have a wonderful textbook and a few relevant videos, nothing can compare to the ‘hands-on' experience our urban children attain at Echo Hill. I have taught for 13 years and have never had a class experience as wonderful and meaningful as that of Echo Hill.”
– Mrs. Deytre D. Jackson, Teacher, Hamilton Elementary School Baltimore City, MD

“Surrounded by your patient, loving staff who encourage them, anything was possible! There were smiles on children who otherwise come to school hunched over from the weight of their personal responsibilities. There was laughter from children who do not even want to make eye contact.”
– Penny Muzyka, Teacher, Hillcrest Elementary School Upper Darby, PA

“The leaders provide direction, insight and energy, and fun. They have designed a program that suits the specific needs of our students. We can count on the staff at Echo Hill to help adolescents negotiate the intricacies of leadership, bonding, and learning.”
- Peter J. Caldwell, Asst. Headmaster, St. Andrew's School Middletown, DE

“Many students learned how to take full responsibility for themselves and their own belongings. They improved their social interaction skills. Cohesiveness was enhanced. Staff professionalism was excellent.”
- Marsha Moore, Teacher, Brookland Elementary Washington, DC

“For the most part our students are from crowded streets in urban neighborhoods. They have had few opportunities to interact with nature on its own terms. They deeply appreciate and don't soon forget the EHOS classes which teach respect and conservation values in a variety of creative ways.”
– Eduardo Gamarra, Teacher, Oyster Bilingual Elementary School Washington, DC

“While the classrooms have no walls, I witnessed boys learning about science and the environment, about themselves, about group dynamics, and about leadership.”
– Douglass E. Norry, Middle School Senior Master, Landon Middle School Potomac, MD

“Having worked now in the city schools for over 25 years, I can honestly say there are few experiences available to our children that compare to the rich, deep, and expansive learning that is at the core of the Echo Hill experience. Few of our students have the opportunity to kiss a fish from the Chesapeake Bay or take in the wonder of a night sky far from the city or take a long, wet nature hike with their friends. Echo Hill Outdoor School opens a new and very exciting world for our kids.”
– Patrick Pope, Principal, Hardy Middle School Washington, DC

“At Friends, we strive to help children grow to be open-minded, reflective, and well-rounded. Echo Hill's program perfectly supports our philosophy of working together to develop both individual and group potential in an inclusive, respectful, and supportive environment.”
– Greta Rutstein, Director of Academic Administration, Friends School of Baltimore Baltimore, MD

“Even days when I was exhausted, grumpy, and searching for energy, there was always someone to put a smile on my face. There were so many moments when I wanted nothing else than to be doing what I was doing, where I was doing it, and with whom I was doing it.”
– Stanley Dunn, Teacher, Echo Hill Outdoor School

“You are certainly in a wonderful location, but for me it is the people that you hire and train that pull it off in splendid fashion. I applaud you for having the dedication and commitment to help make a difference in the lives of our students. I often have students who have gone on to Upper School and college tell me that their experience at Echo Hill was one of the highlights of their Episcopal Experience.”
– Win Shafer, Teacher, Episcopal Academy

“I have been bringing my sixth grade students to Echo Hill for about 10 years now. We use the challenge course program with our students. This program has always been well organized and highly engaging. One of my favorite aspects of the program is that it truly challenges the students. The staff does an excellent job of pushing the students to go one step further than they think they can. Counselors also work on leadership and cooperative skills with my students. This is a character building experience for all involved. My pupils talk about the experience for weeks after we return to school.”
– Mrs. Trina Honer, Teacher, Galena Middle School Kent County, MD

“What impresses me most is the ability of your staff to educate and enthuse our students and our faculty… I applaud you for having the dedication and commitment to help make a difference in the lives of our students.”
- Visiting Teacher


“Thank you so much for all of your hard work and help. I really enjoyed hanging out by the fire and talking to you guys. I really enjoyed all the classes like scanoeing. I also liked building fish, but my favorite class was opinions class.”
- Student, April 2017

“Thank you for inviting us on the High Adventure. When our group went to the swamp, we concluded that the swamp was healthy because of the diverse life in the tested areas. We found grass shrimp, beetles, at least 3 small fish, and a baby dragonfly (sorry, I forgot the name.) Then when we went on the zipline, we told minute mysteries while waiting, and we all rang the bell, got to the top, and went down the zipline. I had a great time. Thank you again for inviting us.”
- Student, April 2017

“You guys taught me so much about ecology. You explained how mistletoe is the least romantic plant because of how it's formed. We learned how to have confidence in ourselves by pulling the string towards us as we fall and swing (on the Giant Swing). We also learned about all sorts of organisms such as mermaid hair, german moss, lichen, and phragmites. We also learned that beavers have a lot of similarities as humans. Thank you for giving me the chance to learn about ecology.”
- Student, April 2017

“The classes were exciting and educational. The teachers cared. It was probably the best week of my life.”
- Student

“One of the most important things is that I learned was to cooperate with others, not just care about myself. I really got to know the people in my tribe better. We helped each other in things when we were in trouble. I really felt good about doing all of these things. Thank you for the best time of my life.”
– Student

“Mostly I learned about myself. I may not be as athletic as other people, but I found out that I do have something inside of me that some people don't have; something inside of me that said, “Keep going!' when I thought I couldn't. I can do things that other people enjoy without being teased about what I look like. These are some of the things that I learned about myself. I also learned that the people in my class like me and make me feel good.”
– Elisa G., Student


“In those five days you were able to instill responsibility, increase self-confidence, teach new skills, open up new friendships, and increase an appreciation of our environment for Matthew.”
– Carolyn Purdy, Parent

“Our son has matured in many ways during this short but substantive experience...it was a wonderful adventure for him. It is one that neither he nor we will ever forget.”
- Parent

Organizational & Grantors

July 16, 2013

Dear Mrs. McCown,
It gives me great pleasure to endorse the Echo Hill Outdoor School's application to assist Baltimore City Public Schools in providing meaningful environmental education experiences to students attending Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts.

Echo Hill is part of the State Aided Education Institutions (SAI) program at the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE.) These non-profit organizations provide unique educational experiences to students and teachers that cannot be replicated in the classroom. As a part of the SAI program, Echo Hill has received funds from the State of Maryland through the Maryland State Department of Education since 1996 and has consistently provided students and teachers across the State with high quality educational experiences. Throughout its funding history Echo Hill has received outstanding reports from the annual site visits. Several staff from the Department have completed these visits and commented on the high quality of the educational programs.

As with all of the programs funded through the SAI program the educational offerings are aligned with MSDE's curricular priorities. Thus, they are transitioning from the Maryland State Curriculum to the Common Core Standards (CCS.) With this transition, their work will be more important since the CCS emphasizes hands on experiential opportunities for students.

It is for the aforementioned reasons that I fully endorse Echo Hill's endeavor to secure funding to provide quality educational experiences to the students at Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts.

Michial A. Gill, Ph.D
Director of the State Aided Educational Institutions
Maryland State Department of Education

“The residential outdoor education programs offered by Echo Hill are exemplary models. Echo Hill Outdoor School is the epitome of what hands-on experiential environmental and outdoor education programs for students and teachers should be.”
– Mary Bea Preston, Maryland State Department of Education

“Participants gained leadership traits over their stay, with improvements occurring across all categories of leadership qualities.”
- College Study

Other Comments

"The knowledge each student learns about himself may be your most lasting lesson. The impact the Outdoor School has on developing interpersonal relations and self-concept is tremendous. Students are placed in group and individual situations that cannot be duplicated in the classroom. Therefore they have to summon help from within and from others… something they frequently have never had to do before."
- Anonymous

"Routines established before and during the excursion provided a structured and safe environment for the students. Students and teachers were mutually respectful and students were held accountable for following the rules, participating in the collection of samples, and writing in their journals."
- Susan K. Laber, MSDE Site Visitor Baltimore, MD