Yosemite – Ultimate Outdoor Classroom

Posted by Nancy D. Brown

Yosemite is a beautiful place in the winter time. No crowds, fresh snow and glorious days to take in the breath taking sights.

My high school senior recently returned from a five day and night trip to Yosemite. It was sponsored and partially funded by the public high school she attends in Northern California.

Jane Kelson teaches geology at Campolindo High School and spear heads the Yosemite Institute Field Course. In addition to studying geology, biology and ecology, the students do “hands on” projects such as testing the water quality of Yosemite Creek. It’s outdoor classroom experiences like this that keep students motivated and opens their eyes to alternative areas of exploration.


High school senior Andi Kohen said, “the best part of visiting Yosemite was that it was an amazing opportunity to bond with fellow students while participating in a fun learning environment. Visiting Yosemite taught me a lot about how to respect nature, such as trying not to leave one crumb behind in order not to upset the ecosystem. Not only did it teach us to respect nature, it also taught us to respect others, such as our Yosemite Institute instructor when they are trying to teach us something important. It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I got a chance to experience it.”


 The students slept in the canvas-covered tent cabins at Curry Village for a couple of days and then moved to the eastern part of Yosemite valley. They cross country skied on fresh fallen snow, glided across frozen ice on skates, created a human pyramid in front of a fallen tree trunk in Mariposa Grove and ate lunch at the base of a waterfall. How awesome is that?

As some of you know, California schools are taking a huge economic hit. Our Acalanes School District is experiencing  a $4.8 million district budget shortfall.

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Administrators are going through classroom course offerings with a fine tooth comb to see where cuts can be made. Classes such as the Yosemite Institute Field Class may be on the chopping block. For our students, and future high school students who follow in their footsteps, I hope organizations such as the Moraga Education Foundation continue to fund outdoor classes such as this.

The experiences our children have outside the classroom are as powerful and motivating as their studies behind closed walls.

What are your favorite things to do in Yosemite?

Photos courtesy of Kendall C. Brown


3 thoughts on “Yosemite – Ultimate Outdoor Classroom”

  1. Great article. The future of our parks rests in our youth. Anything we can do to build a love of the parks is so important. Especially in this day of computers taking such a big chunk of activity time. More kids in more parks!

  2. Marya Carr, Yosemite Institute Outreach Director

    I believe strongly in the power of immersing young people in nature and providing the opportunity for them to connect classroom learning with phenomena in the natural world. It is thanks to teachers like Ms. Kelson and funders like the Moraga Education Foundation that Yosemite Institute is able to do the work that we do. Thank you!

  3. Leigh Westerlund

    Yosemite Institute programs encourage students to think about how they treat themselves, how they treat one another and how they treat the planet. They are more important than ever before and yet teachers have fewer resources from which to draw to make these trips possible. For these reasons, we are in awe of the work that teachers like Jane Kelson are doing to make Yosemite Institute programs happen. You can help by donating to the Yosemite Institute scholarship fund. Your gift will transform someone’s life.

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