Notes from the Outdoor Classroom

Just past Potrero Canyon trailhead, students from the International School of Monterey (ISM) surge ahead.

“A frog! Frog!”

Julie Sigourney, one of SLC’s outdoor education program’s veteran teachers,  maneuvers the stampeding fifth graders calmly.  “Okay, this is a good lesson: don’t run towards the wildlife.”  She holds up the lime green Pacific tree frog.   “Does anyone know what an amphibian is?”

Hands shoot up.

“That’s right.  They live on both water and land.  They like to stay nice and wet.  They have porous skin, too, so they’re especially sensitive to water pollution. Amphibians all over the world are disappearing.”  The students watch as the Pacific tree frog hops free.

Julie turns back to the class. “That was a little bit of a distraction.  That’s okay.  When you’re outside, what you see is what you learn.”
Santa Lucia’s outdoor education program is two devoted teachers, Julie and Kirsten, who have been leading classes in the Santa Lucia Preserve for twenty years. Many of the Preserve’s ecosystems are unique to California, and the Preserve hosts endemic species like the Santa Lucia slim salamander- an animal found  nowhere else in the world.

“When you’re outside, what you see is what you learn.”
~Naturalist and teacher Julie S.

This remarkable place, Julie and Kirsten discussed, defines the curriculum.  They showed me twenty years worth of carefully compiled notes, laminated against fog.  The Carmel Valley north of Big Sur was home to the Rumsen people, one of the eight Ohlone tribes, before transfer to a Mexican land grant and then to a conservancy. As a result, there are layers to the outdoor education Santa Lucia offers local schools. The Preserve holds rich material not only for biology classes, but history, archaeology, and art.