Sixth-graders trundle off buses and into a sun-speckled redwood forest. It’s terra incognita for most of them. But they are in good hands with educators from LandPaths, a Sonoma County organization supported by Save the Redwoods League education grants program and our members.
More than 60 percent of these kids are English language learners. More than 90 percent qualify for their school’s free or reduced lunch program. A mere 10 miles from their school, they’ll spend this day — and three others throughout the year — getting to know this local forest and helping it thrive.
This LandPaths program, called In Our Own Backyard or IOOBY, serves 900 students each year. They hike, play nature games, and learn about wildlife and waterways. Each visit, they’ll return to a quiet “sit spot” in the forest to make observations and write. They’ll also sort and weigh their lunch garbage—and learn how they can reduce what they add to the waste stream.
In places that were logged a few decades ago, the students plant licorice ferns and huckleberries. Some name their plants and wish them well by burying messages like “Good luck, Bob” in their holes.
Work days such as this one are a key part of the program, explained Bree Arthur, LandPaths Education Director. “It’s a chance to give the students hands-on experience of taking care of a place,” she said. “On the next field day, they come running back and remember exactly what they planted.”
Arthur loves watching kids’ curiosity come alive in the outdoors. “People come from all over the world to see the redwoods,” she said. “We teach the children how rare and important they are.”
These lessons are important, because they influence the next generation who will care for our redwood forests.