Thanks to a WOLF School scholarship funded by a grant from Save the Redwoods League, 30 5th grade students from St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland, CA were able to attend WOLF School's residential outdoor science school program at Little Basin, part of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, becoming ambassadors for the redwoods.
The week long science camp integrated WOLF School's Growing Redwoods Stewards program into the curriculum.
WOLF School partnered with Save the Redwoods League to help get more kids outside and meeting, as Heather Butler, the Director of WOLF and Little Basin said, “redwood trees in person” with the intent of growing future redwood stewards.
Led by the WOLF School naturalists, students hiked the trails and performed studies on the redwoods.
“Giving kids a chance to touch and spend time with a 1,000 year old redwood tree is amazing,” said Butler. “The magnitude of these trees is hard to absorb unless you are standing in the middle of them, or, even better--getting to spend multiple days with these trees.”
For the redwood study, the students used tools specifically designed to measure the height and diameter of an individual redwood, the rate at which the trees absorb the moisture around them, and other factors.
“During the redwood study, kids become a real scientist, using tools and collecting data,” said Nicole Mills, one of the lead teachers from St. Paul's .
An important part of the program is having the students take what they learn at Little Basin back to the community and the other students at school.
“We do a redwood ecology unit, that includes the kids making brochures that are used to teach the rest of the kids at school about forest ecology, so it’s a program that ripples back to the school in a real way,” emphasized Mills.
This is the third year that St. Paul's has attended program with WOLF School, but the first time they went to the Little Basin campus.
“Without this funding, we would not have been able to have done this program--we have a huge chunk of the kids in our school that receive tuition assistance,” said Mills.
To help the kids absorb the information about the redwoods, the naturalists set up “professor hikes,” which allows the students to teach each other about forest ecology, such as the flora and fauna.
The kids are given specific information to learn--for example, the fact that the roots of the redwood trees are all interconnected--and then teach that information to the other kids.
A big part of the program of course, is pure fun, based on the knowledge that kids and adults will be more likely to protect a forest that they have learned to love.
Cara, one of the naturalists that goes by the trail name “Raccoon,” makes sure to include lots of fun activities, an easy thing to do in the forest. “My favorite spot is a redwood stump so huge you can fit 15 kids inside of it and do lessons standing inside the redwood.”
“I like sleeping in cabins with my friends,” said Tip, one of the students. Henry, another student, said, “I loved the square pancakes at breakfast, and the night hike.”
“We play lots of games with the kids,” Cara added, “like redwood twister, a trust activity called redwoods in the wind, and solo and night hikes.”
Fun for the teachers? “The solo hike - where we all space apart, safely of course - and hike - was huge for me as a teacher, to have that space to just absorb the beauty and magnitude of the redwoods,” said Mills.
“The redwood forests are a vibrant system, so the kids focus on the surrounding areas as well,” said Butler. A salamander study, as well as studying a handful of the hundreds of types of insects that live around the redwoods using microscopes or hand lenses the kids bring with them into the forest is also a part of the curriculum.