A few weeks ago I traveled an hour south of San Francisco to the town of San Gregorio to observe a group of fifth graders from Oakland begin their adventure at an outdoor education center, Vida Verde. During this visit I walked with the students through a redwood forest and was able to see them explore the forest for the first time.
Before they departed, the students shared what they were looking forward to seeing during their hike. Many expressed their interest in discovering new animals, big and small. I told them I was excited to see small, slimy organisms like the slug. The students started their hike with the opportunity to be a part of the “polar bear club,” which involved dipping their head in a cold river for 10 seconds. They were also challenged to describe how the bark of different trees felt as they passed them on the trail.
Throughout the two-hour hike I was able to see a transformation in the students, from just participating in a simple hike, to an upwelling of curiosity about everything they saw. Students were examining feathers, cones, and leaves; they were feeling bark and touching fire-scarred redwood trees, and making observations about their forest surroundings. Their excitement was contagious as they bounded down the path, thrilled with even the tiniest things they found. With little instruction, the fifth graders were discovering a redwood forest for the first time.
One fifth grader had the following to say about their experience at Vida Verde:
“This experience in the redwood forests while at Vida Verde has changed me. I now understand what redwoods are doing to save us and what we MUST do to save them. Which is, help them to NOT be cut down and help them grow.”
Vida Verde is just one of twenty-five organizations our Redwood Education Grants support. Through our education grants program we are able to give thousands of students opportunities to discover their own redwood forest every year.
You can learn more about our education grants by visiting our education programs web page.