I have seen the immense value of taking a group of Jr. and High School students camping every year. The students learn valuable skills, they also create wonderful memories and connections with the outdoors, friends, siblings and youth leaders.
Latino Outdoors Regional Coordinator Melissa Avery and Esperanza Viva Youth Leaders Jesse Avery and Nate Rische took five high school students camping on three day/two night camping trip at Woodside Campgrounds at Salt Point State Park (August 2014). The students enjoyed learning outdoor skills, hiking, camping, playing soccer, cooking, and much more. Salt Point State Park was a great location to camp near the beautiful Northern California Coast.
“I liked how we played soccer on the beach, but the ocean was very cold and I’m scared of sharks.”
Simon ~ 8th Grade (Stump Beach Cove)
Everyone is usually very excited to get to “camp,” most of our students have been camping before with their families but none of them had ever set up their “own camp.” As good youth leaders, we gave the students a few moments to enjoy their natural surroundings before we started handing out responsibilities and tasks.
Our students had never set up their own camps so to their shock, and even though we had told them many times before, many expected the “adults” to set up camp for them. We love teaching responsibility to our students and having them set up their own camp is a great way to do it! Since everything is a race with teenagers, the boys scurried off to their campsite to build their tents while the girls timidly started setting up their own tent.
I was particularly proud of my girl students because not only did they “beat” the boys in setting up their tent but they also set up their tent correctly on the first try!
“I liked how we learned to make fire and how we cooked all our food on the campfire.”
Simon ~ 8th grade
“I enjoyed teaching the students to chop firewood and different methods of how to start a campfire.”
Jesse ~ EV Youth Leader
FIRE! One of the primal elements of life was one of the favorite teaching moments among the students and leaders during the camping trip. Many times growing up in the urban environment children are taught fire is dangerous but never taught how to use it as a survival tool. Jesse taught the students how to make kindling and properly start a fire with matches and magnesium fire kit. The students were really enthralled with trying to start the campfire with magnesium!
In addition to making fire to keep us warm, all meals were cooked by fire and the students were responsible for preparing their own meals, something the kids had never experienced before.
The Beach and California Coastal Cliffs…
“I liked hiking to the coastal cliffs because I’ve never done that before.”
Andrew ~ 9th grade
Two of our four main “activities” included the beautiful Northern California Coast: hiking to Sentinel Rock Viewing Platform, and enjoying the beach at Stump Beach Cove. Unfortunately, we never found the viewing platform because the students were so enthralled with the cliffs and tafoni formations in the sandstone along the way.
At Stump Beach Cove (1st picture) the students played soccer and relaxed in the sun. I had the opportunity to sit and stare at the ocean with Ashley, a high school senior. We talked, looked at the marine debris washing up on the shore and to our surprise harbor seal popped up several times along the cove. That was very memorable for the both of us because we could see it staring directly at us!
Hiking and Huckleberries…
My favorite outdoor activity to do with students is hike, for many reasons! Learning and teaching by “experiencing” in the outdoors is a great way to effectively teach what a classroom might take away. Teenagers also have a lot of energy despite of their “sleepiness” and hiking drains their energy in a good way!
We had two main hiking locations at Salt Point State Park. First we attempted to find the beautiful Rhododendron flowers at the Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve and second we hiked through the Pygmy Forest.
At the rhododendron reserve we were unfortunately a couple months too late to enjoy the flowers at the actual reserve but we later realized we had seen them all along drive up the coast. We still had great time on our two mile hike. We had lunch among the redwoods and even had some students and leaders drinking straight from the creeks which they found very amusing (with a water filter, Lifestraw). New experiences for every one!
The Pygmy Forest was a favorite for many! During this hike, we were able to find a multitude of huckleberries and a few blackberries which the students hesitantly tried. Eventually, I had to tell my “pickiest eater” student to stop eating so many huckleberries because we actually had to finish hiking!!
We were hiking among giant trees all morning and once we reached the “top” of the hill we were in a completely different environment. The students kept asking why the trees where tiny…eventually we found a kiosk and learned about the geology of the Pygmy Forest, while we ate leftover carne asada and snacks! Personally, I loved walking through a forest with trees the same height as myself.
“My favorite part was hiking…it helped me take my mind off of things.”
Ashley ~ 12th Grade
“I liked when we hiked along the little trees (Pygmy Forest), I just liked hiking.”
Josue ~ 10th Grade
“Berry picking! Also, I loved how every tree had a “face” on in it!”
Elizabeth ~ 9th Grade
“It was really exciting to see the teenagers, who barely have a chance to get out of their neighborhoods except to go get fast-food, be able to pick and eat wild berries right off the vine.”
Nate ~ EV Youth Leader
As a youth leader, I truly love watching my students just explore nature’s surroundings. Just as I enjoy watching my own children explore the forests, beaches and mountains, I love hearing what my students think of the outdoors.
From overcoming fears and complaints turning into requests, are some of the things I most look forward to when I take a group outdoors. Hastily drinking from the camp water spigot to drinking from a creek, complaining about hiking then wishing we could have hiked more are some of the turnarounds I enjoyed on this trip. More importantly, I enjoy how being outdoors fosters long lasting and meaningful relationships with my students so my fellow youth leaders and I can help them grow into contributing members to our community.
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Thank you to the Resources Legacy Fund and the Bay Area Wilderness Training for your support, gear and training to getting youth outdoors and the Latino community outdoors. Thank you to the parents who entrusted us with their children and to my fellow youth leaders Jesse Avery and Nate Rische.
Melissa is a LO Regional Coordinator for the San Francisco Bay Area where she works to partner with organizations and facilitate outdoor activities with families and youth students. She also is a youth leader at her local church and an outdoor family blogger at Chasqui Mom, where she writes about her personal outdoor family adventures.