The state of California consists of several very distinct and unique biomes. Over the course of their three years in the Middle School, students will visit three of these biomes and spend at least a week immersed in hands-on study in the field. Prior to the visit, they will spend a week researching the biome in terms of its flora and fauna, ecology, natural history, environmental issues, human history, geology, physical geography, climate and economy. Activities on each trip vary according to the terrain. Furthermore, there is always a community service program that the students perform on site. We partner with ranger programs in these areas to provide our students with tailor-made and age-appropriate learning experiences.
The coastal biome has, over the years, provided many varied destinations including the Mendocino coast, Monterey, Catalina Island and Elkhorn Slough. Activities include kayaking, tide pooling, species identification labs, hiking, field math and coastal cleanup.
The desert biome destination has always been Death Valley and has always been the great favorite of both the students and faculty. Activities include hiking, swimming, endangered species observation, geology workshops, horseback riding, astronomy, field math and graffiti removal.
The mountain biome is Yosemite Valley. Activities include hiking, camping, horseback riding, species identification, astronomy, field math and brush fire clearing and prevention.
In addition to the above activities, all the biome trips have creative expression components. Time is allocated each day for this purpose. The students are encouraged to document their trip in a journal and illustrate it with their photography. Other forms of creative expression include writing poetry and descriptive pieces. They are also encouraged to write a creative story set in the biome. In addition, students are encouraged to paint, sketch or draw vistas from their trip.
The students have about a month after returning from a biome trip to correlate their data or work into a guidebook of the area.
The biome trips are not just a matter of scholastic, environmental and creative relevance. Being in a foreign environment with their peers for days spurs the creation of strong friendships, camaraderie and bonding between students from different grades.