Students Connect with Nature and Community

From hiking to rock climbing to kayaking, students of all ages enjoyed enhanced nature outings this year thanks to the school’s new Outdoor Classroom initiative. Parents and the community at-large also benefited from innovative educational programming, hearing lectures by renowned authors and attending documentary film screenings on environmental issues. Marking its first anniversary, the Outdoor Classroom builds on the school’s nature-rich curriculum, providing grants, teacher support, and community education. It is gearing up for an exciting second year by helping launch the school’s new summer camp in June.

“I am thrilled with the reception of the Outdoor Classroom by our students and the community,” said coordinator Amy Belkora. “The funds support our students’ more frequent access to nearby nature and have already made a significant impact across the grades on our children’s quality time outdoors.”

Most recently, the Outdoor Classroom sponsored a series of outings for students in the High School’s History of Architecture class. Seniors set out by bus, bike, and foot to explore the City’s rooftop gardens, living alleys, and sustainable buildings, hearing from architects, city planners, and environmental experts along the way. Ongoing area habitat restoration projects at and around the high school are also supported; and water plants and willows are being grown for use in high school basketry classes.

At the grade school, fourth and seventh graders enjoyed guided kayaking in Point Reyes, complementing their studies of marine mammals, waterfowl, waterways, and early settlers. A fifth grade trip to Pinnacles included an additional day of guided rock climbing and botany exploration. Gear for expanded nursery exploration and grade school games at the Presidio was also provided through grants.

Throughout the year, students got the opportunity to meet with experts in the field, from foresters in the Presidio to city planners who design living alleys. Grateful for the outpouring of community support, Amy Belkora noted that “our students are inspired by people in the environmental community who generously share their expertise and passion about the natural world.”

The Outdoor Classroom assembled an impressive list of public speakers; parents were invited to attend a lecture by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, and the school hosted a public lecture by David Sobel, author of Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities. The community was also encouraged to attend a screening of Symphony of the Soil, a documentary that explores soil as the foundation of life on earth.

The Outdoor Classroom Committee is made possible by a grant from the Seed Fund and generous financial support from the school community. For more information, please contact Mitch Mitchell at or Amy Belkora at

The Outdoor Classroom Committee includes leaders and innovators in the environmental/sustainability

Many thanks to our Parent/Board Members:
Damien Raffa, Education and Volunteer Program Manager at the Presidio Trust (7th grade parent)
Kyle Macdonald, Founder of the Outdoors Empowered Network and Founder,
CEO of Bay Area Wilderness Training (2nd and 5th grade parent)
Alison Sant, Partner in the Studio for Urban Projects, President of the Seed Fund (Board Member, Kindergarten and 2nd grade parent)

They are joined by staff and faculty members:
Allison Carroll, Nursery Teacher
Mitch Mitchell, Advancement Director
Cory Powers, GS Administrative Coordinator
Amy Belkora, Coordinator, GS Garden Teacher
John Burket, HS Biology Teacher
Karmin Guzder, 4th Grade Class Teacher
Ben Pittenger, HS Earth Sciences Teacher
Matt Hart, Outdoor Education Coordinator
Ellie Capers (Advisor)

2013-2014 Outdoor Classroom Grants 

  • Materials for the Nursery to better support the children’s time outside.
  • Day long kayak trip to Point Reyes for the Fourth Grade class.
  • Day long rock climbing adventure as part of the Fifth Grade class trip to the Pinnacles.
  • Seventh grade guided kayaking and hiking in Point Reyes.
  • Gear for expanded adventure and games curriculum in the Presidio.
  • Ongoing restoration and beautification of Ardenwood, next door to the high school campus.
  • Habitat restoration of the high school campus.
  • Sourcing and growing water plants and willows to use in high school basketry classes.
  • Design and launch of all-outdoor summer camp for grade school.
  • 12th Grade “History of Architecture” two-day San Francisco tour.

2013-14 Community Education

  • Richard Louv, author of Nature Deficit Disorder, at the Commonwealth Club.
  • Yosemite Rim Fire at the Commonwealth Club.
  • Symphony of the Soil screening at the Randall Museum.
  • Support for additional films in the Greater Good Film Festival.
  • Lecture by Gloria and Stephen Decater of Live Power Community Farm (
  • Talk with author and environmental education pioneer 
  • David Sobel at the high school.

For the latest about Bay Area
environmental education, check out the Outdoor Classroom blog: