Many people remember the first time they hugged a giant redwood, encountered a banana slug, or glimpsed the Pacific Ocean. For some, these are travel memories -- but for a lot of Californians, those first-time experiences happen through outdoor education.
Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools at Pigeon Point is an outdoor education program that's operated out of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel for 30 years. Previously programs were available from January to June only, but they've recently expanded their season, and school groups (including public, private, charter, and home schools) can now book for the fall of 2012.
Exploring New Horizons Pigeon Point (formerly the Pigeon Point Environmental Education Program) leads academic programs in natural settings along the San Mateo and Santa Cruz county coasts. The Pigeon Point program is unique among other outdoor programs because of its setting in the hostel. "The communal-living aspect of our program is similar to the hostel experience," says Tracey Weiss, executive director of Exploring New Horizons. Students are housed in a separate hostel building (away from other guests) with an independent kitchen, common room, and classroom facilities, where they cook, eat, learn, and relax together. "It's a very transformative experience for the students. For some of them, it's their first time away from home."
Science textbooks come to life on the beach, just feet from the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Rather than reading about marine wildlife, students use all of their senses to observe the life cycle of a tidepool, identify native vegetation, and experience the elephant seals of Ano Nuevo.
Rather than talking about pollution, students might encounter some of its hazardous effects by seeing garbage on the beach. Since the hostel makes every effort to be low-impact, with recycling and composting programs as well as shared living quarters, students also learn what they can do to help protect the natural world.
Most importantly, Exploring New Horizons' students have the opportunity to simply experience nature firsthand. According to Tracey, one to four students each week have their first-ever trip to the ocean with Exploring New Horizons. "Getting that hands-on experience of the ocean, to see it, and smell it, and feel the sand... it's an unbridled joy, being able to touch the ocean."
For more information about the programs, dates, fees, and availability, check the Exploring New Horizons website.
Stay at the historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel.