Six third grade classrooms from Redwood City School District’s Taft and Garfield Elementary Schools learned about and visited Pescadero Beach and Pigeon Point Light Station.

Many San Mateo school children have never visited the coast and others know it only as a beach playground. Through Coastal Explorers, they learn about the coastal ecosystem, cultural history, and the value of preserving the great resources that we all share. Importantly, they learn that they “own” our state parks equally with all Californians, and they are encouraged to return with their families again and again.

To imprint an appreciation of the curriculum, program has several steps. Before visiting the coast, an interactive Zoom is held in each classroom, with experienced State Parks staff. While visiting the park, a State Park Interpreter guides them in activities that build upon their classroom introduction. A second trip to a second park expands their understanding of what the parks can offer. Classroom follow-up helps cement what they have learned. To encourage students to return with their families, each school library received five backpacks containing a field kit consisting of items to entice the children to return with their families. The field kit contents include free passes to most state parks for a year, binoculars to view seals, whales, birds and other distant objects, a microscope phone adapter to view small wonders and capture photos of them, plasticized interpretive folders, just-in-case rain gear, and more. 

Five Coastal Explorer backpacks were given to each school library.

Interpreter Elizabeth Crowley told us, “For a lot of these kids, it was their first time seeing the ocean and they were blown away. We heard students telling their teachers “best day ever!” several times. At Pigeon Point, several of the students saw an otter from the observation deck and it was all they could talk about. They also really enjoyed learning about how to refract and direct light beams with prisms from our docent Richard Ruh, an optical engineer. Students were also really excited to receive the backpacks. I had one student bring his family back to the lighthouse and he made it very clear to me that I was not tell them anything. He wanted to be the tour guide and share everything he learned.”

The Coastal Explorer experience had such a positive impact that we at Coastside State Parks hope to leverage our first-year experience to extend and expand the program, whether through future grants or the generosity of our donors.

Article written by Walter Schwartz, CSPA Vice President.

Park Aide John McCaull introduces Pigeon Point Light Station State Historical Park via zoom.