Hundreds of Roseland Middle Schoolers Get Outside with LandPaths’ Inspired Forward
By LandPaths Staff
October 21, 2021
“This is gorgeous!” declares an 8th grader from Roseland Accelerated Middle School, looking across the waves of native grasslands billowing towards stands of redwood, oak, madrone, and bay trees, underneath a blue sky stippled with clouds at Bohemia Ecological Preserve. The Dutch Bill Watershed, where Bohemia is located, is the unceded ancestral territory of the Coast Miwok.
“I’m actually having fun,” adds another 8th grader. “I want to camp here forever!”
What a dream to be sleeping under the stars to the soundtrack of the yips and yelps of the foxes and coyotes that call that land home. And though that student won’t be camping on this particular land until the end of time, take heart. They will get to go on four field trips to Bohemia and other beautiful, wild places in Sonoma County. In fact, a new partnership between LandPaths and Roseland Public Schools means that all 480 middle-school students from Roseland Accelerated Middle School and Roseland Collegiate Prep will have this opportunity.
This type of broad partnership that reaches all middle-school students in a district is a first for Inspired Forward, which was developed by LandPaths in 2012 to connect teens and young adults with nature and each other as a response to the tragic Sandy Hook shooting.
Growing Future Leaders and Earth Stewards
The goals for each field trip, aside from simply connecting with nature and each other, are three-fold:
- To grow leadership, team-building, and self-development skills through solo walks, sit spots, icebreakers, and teamwork activities such as “Meet a Tree.”
- To grow ecological literacy. This means learning about ecosystems and how humans are not separate from these systems.
- To grow stewardship by taking care of the land and learning how to live in a more balanced way with nature.
A day on the land finds students taking quiet time to sketch and write about their observations of their “internal and external ecosystems” from self-chosen “sit spots.” They use the same journals to document learnings about plants and animals during a culturally relevant, hands-on science lesson aligned with Next Generation Science Standards; they hike and learn safety skills such as how to avoid poison oak; and they learn about the characteristics of the serpentine ecosystem and its endemic species that makes one feel like they’ve stumbled out of grasslands and onto a moonscape.
“This program has offered our students an opportunity to get outside and learn in a vastly different environment than the classroom, where they can think and process their thoughts in a quiet and peaceful space,” says Haley Piazza, Principal at Roseland Accelerated Middle School. “After over a year of distance learning and being on screens, isolated from each other, and often, the outside world, it’s beautiful to see students connecting with nature, building community, and gaining appreciation for our planet. I am very grateful for LandPaths’ Inspired Forward.”
Teen Access to Nature is Crucial to Mental Health
Research bears this out. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that getting children and teens outside has become even more crucial since the Covid-19 pandemic aggravated mental health struggles and feelings of isolation. What’s more, teens that spend more time in nature had less anger and stress, and improvements in impulse control. As anyone who has spent an afternoon chilling by the ocean or hiking under a canopy of madrones knows, stress and depression tends to be lower for all people that get outside for experiences in nature.
Still, inequitable access to nature continues to be a huge problem. Teens from affluent families in the U.S. generally experience nature more, especially when it comes to the ability to enjoy and explore local open spaces. That’s why we believe that partnerships like this one with Roseland City Schools is so essential now and going forward.
In the past, individual teachers who want access to environmental education for their students would need to seek out LandPaths. That’s what makes this partnership with Roseland Public Schools unprecedented, says Jamie Nakama, LandPaths’ Youth Programs Manager. After working for months of planning to develop and fine tune the partnership, the district approved the contract, enabling the program to roll out this fall.
Environmental Education for All
Now, Jamie works directly with principals at the two schools to coordinate with all 7th and 8th grade science classrooms and their teachers to take part in Inspired Forward. Roseland Public Schools pays for transportation to the preserves and helps to subsidize other parts of the program, which is also supported by funding from the City of Santa Rosa’s Measure O and Sonoma County Ag + Open Space.
Removing barriers to funding and transportation is key to ensuring that all students have access to quality environmental education. Thanks to Roseland Public Schools and our partners below for making this ambitious, innovative work happen. We believe nature is the best classroom!
If you are interested in learning about how to bring Inspired Forward to your school or school district, please contact Youth Programs Manager Jamie Nakama at [email protected] to start a conversation about the possibilities!
Thank you to the following partners for helping us get more teens outside for teamwork, stewardship, and self-development in local nature.