Earth Island Reports
Connecting Kids with Nature
KIDS for the BAY
“This is the most beautiful place ever!” exclaimed Emily, as she and her classmates climbed off the yellow school bus at Slide Ranch in Marin County, California. They were embarking on a KIDS for the BAY field trip: tide pooling along the Pacific Ocean coastline. For Emily and many of her classmates, third graders at Community United Elementary School in East Oakland, this trip marked their first encounter with the ocean. It was a chance to discover bright green sea anemones, gently touch blue mussels, and connect with nature in a stunning outdoor environment.
As the students walked down the steep cliff to the rocky ocean shore, I overheard Rodolfo sharing, “I really want to see a sea star.” Aniah, another third grader, added, “I hope we see crabs like the ones we saw in class!” Students quickly discovered limpets, barnacles, purple ochre sea stars, and shoreline crabs scattered throughout the tide pools. Jennali found a green sea anemone. “Oh wow, it’s amazing. It feels squishy and it’s blending into the rock!” she exclaimed. “I never knew so many animals lived here,” Kei’Mora shared. “I will always remember them.”
After exploring the nooks and crannies of the tide pools, students were excited to clean up trash on the beach and help protect the animals they had just discovered. As Emily explained to KIDS for the BAY instructor Andrew Patel, “We have to pick up the little pieces too, because animals eat trash without knowing that it’s trash! We can’t throw trash on the ground ever, because we know that the trash will end up in the ocean.”
At the end of their day-long field trip, the students were sad to leave Slide Ranch, a KIDS for the BAY partner organization that also provides educational opportunities for children. “I want to see this place again. It’s amazing,” Erika told her teacher. “This was a really special trip for all of us,” agreed Anh Nguyen Delos Reyes, one of the Community United teachers participating in the KIDS for the BAY program with her students.
Nature-based field trips like this one turn the local environment into a living laboratory for hands-on science learning. Along with classroom lessons and environmental action projects, these KIDS for the BAY adventures are academically enriching for students and help inspire action to protect the environment we all share.
KIDS for the BAY also works closely with teachers, providing professional-development opportunities to help grow their environmental science curriculum both in the classroom and in the outdoors. During their first year in the program, teachers partner with KIDS for the BAY instructors and learn the curriculum alongside their students. The following year, teachers are provided with curricula, materials, and support to continue teaching nature-based science programs on their own.
Since 1992, KIDS for the BAY has engaged 77,178 school students in environmental education programs, and has provided curricula, resources, and training to more than 3,000 partner teachers. Over the past 24 years, KIDS for the BAY students have cleaned up 26,444 gallons of trash from school neighborhoods and local waterways, planted native plants beside urban creeks, and removed invasive plants to create more space for native species to thrive.
Students also teach the lessons they learn to their families and to their broader communities. They’ve taught their parents how to safely prepare and cook bay fish to reduce the intake of harmful toxins; tested creek water quality and shared their findings with local agencies; and created beautiful, educational murals to inspire their school communities to take care of local watersheds.
Many thousands of children in the San Francisco Bay Area have never touched the ocean, held a crab on the shores of the bay, or discovered a mayfly nymph in a creek. They haven’t had the opportunity to connect with this special bay habitat, or learn how they can help to take care of it. KIDS for the BAY brings these life-changing experiences to more than 4,000 school students each year, students who would not otherwise have this opportunity.
To learn more, visit: kidsforthebay.org
Student last names were omitted for privacy.