Getting Outdoors with Exploring New Horizons

Exploring New Horizons is an outdoor education program that was founded as a nonprofit in 1979. Its mission is to empower students, build environmental literacy, and strengthen school communities through residential and environmental education. Each year, Exploring New Horizons’ experienced naturalists serve 7,000 students throughout the greater San Francisco and Monterey Bay area in their outdoor education programs that are aligned with NGSS and Common Core standards. Their goal is to provide high-quality and affordable programs to create positive associations between learning and the outdoors. 

Currently, Exploring New Horizons is offering outdoor school programs for students in Santa Cruz County, as well as a virtual science camp to accommodate current mandates. We recently spoke with Jacob Sackin, Executive Director of Exploring New Horizons, and he provided some insight on the importance of outdoor education programs, noting “In CA less than 10% of 4-6th grade students attend outdoor school.” Through experience and research, Jacob has highlighted the benefits when students participate in 3 to 5-day residential outdoor education programs, including: 

  • • Increased motivation to learn and achievement in school
  • • Greater self-esteem, respect, and conflict resolution skills
  • • Less stress, depression, and symptoms of ADD

Exploring New Horizons takes a “Whole Child Approach” with the creation of their programs, focusing on environmental stewardship, social-emotional learning, and the arts. They offer two program types: 

  • • A larger program that engages entire 5-6th grade classrooms and teachers in a 4–5-day overnight program in Pescadero/Scotts Valley allows students to explore the redwoods, go tide pooling, take night hikes, and sing songs about decomposition. 
  • • A smaller program 1 to 3-day program that engages 20-40 3rd– 8th graders at Pigeon Point Lighthouse where students learn about northern elephant seals, look for whales, cook meals each day, and more! 

At the core of Exploring New Horizon’s mission is environmental literacy, and Jacob believes that environmental literacy starts with equity of access to environmental education programs. If environmental education and literacy programs were implemented at the state level, funding could be more easily accessible for students across California. Students that were offered free preschool and outdoor learning programs throughout the years could better understand their connection to the world and the ecosystems around them. 

“Environmental Literacy involves building on environmental education experiences before and after attending an outdoor school program.” 

As noted by Jacob in a survey conducted by Exploring New Horizons in the last 5 years, 96% of 700 participating classroom teachers agreed that after participating in an outdoor education program, students:  

  • • Expressed more self-esteem 
  • • Strengthened relationships with peers and their teachers
  • • Felt more connected to the environment and comfortable being outside 
  • • Better understand the ecosystems of coastal California and their role as environmental stewards 

Overall, teachers mentioned that they noticed more respect and appreciation for the environment, stronger community, and cooperation, more independence, sense of responsibility, confidence, and self-esteem from student participants. 

Exploring New Horizons and many other nonprofit organizations rely on the support of their community to provide high-quality and affordable educational programs. Through the support of local schools, individual donors, and grant-funding, Exploring New Horizons works hard to curate a wide breadth of outdoor educational programs and help provide scholarships for schools with students who are eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Meals.  

During this past year, Exploring New Horizons has had to reduce the number of programs offered due to the pandemic and lack of support for outdoor education. ENH has taken the time to prepare lessons and programs that are educational and safe for children to participate in outdoor/open-air spaces and hopes to continue doing so as we look forward to the year ahead.  

If you are a teacher, parent, or guardian looking to get involved with an outdoor education program like Exploring New Horizons, visit the CAELI Community-Based Partner Hub and find partners and programs near you: CAELI Community Based Partner Hub

Philanthropic support is also a great way to get involved with nonprofits like ENH, so if you are an individual donor or a local foundation or corporation interested in funding opportunities, please visit: Support Exploring New Horizons!

Exploring New Horizons is an organizational member of the California Association of Environmental & Outdoor Education (AEOE). AEOE is a network of dedicated individuals and organizations in California that are committed to using environmental and outdoor education as a tool to create lasting environmental change. Their mission is “to advance the impact of environmental and outdoor education in California.” AEOE, led by Estrella Risinger, has 3 core goals: 1) Convene program providers to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive network of skilled practitioners. 2) Provide learning opportunities that are aligned with best practices and content relevant to the field 3) Promote high-quality environmental education and advocate for all young people to experience meaningful learning opportunities outdoors. 

Become an AEOE organizational member and get access to resources, conferences, and events! 

AEOE is the California affiliate for the North American Association of Environmental Educators (NAAEE).

Relevant Links: 

Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education | California AEOE 

As the professional association for environmental and outdoor education in California, AEOE provides programs and practitioners with the tools, resources, and expertise to ensure that future generations are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary to develop lifelong connections to the natural world and the commitment to sustain it. 

California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI)

CAELI, led by Ten Strands, works statewide with guidance from a leadership council to create systems change in support of environmental literacy with a focus on access, equity, and cultural relevance for all students.

Environmental Education Equity | Exploring New Horizons 

Exploring New Horizons seeks support to serve more lower-income schools, to continue providing affordable rates and scholarships to participating schools, and to provide professional learning for our staff on equity, inclusion, and culturally responsive pedagogy. 

Loma Mar Program | Exploring New Horizons 

Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools at Loma Mar takes a hands-on, experiential approach to science education, and focuses on adventure, self-discovery, and environmental stewardship. Located in the Pescadero Creek watershed near Memorial and Pescadero Creek County Parks, students learn about how they are connected to the natural world while exploring the Oak and Redwood Forest. Each evening activity finishes with songs and stories around the campfire. 

Pigeon Point Program | Exploring New Horizons 

Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools at Pigeon Point is based at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historic Park with accommodations provided by Hostelling International. Pigeon Point is located on the Pacific Ocean, 50 miles south of San Francisco, and 20 miles north of Santa Cruz. The Pigeon Point program offers a unique opportunity for students to learn more about themselves as well as the natural world that surrounds them. 

Sempervirens Program | Exploring New Horizons 

Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools at Sempervirens takes a hands-on, experiential approach to science education, and focuses on adventure, self-discovery, and environmental stewardship. Students explore the coastal ecosystems, the Oak, Madrone, and Redwood Forest, and each evening activity finishes with songs and stories around the campfire. 

Ten Strands 

Ten Strands weaves stakeholders and strategies together into strong, focused education partnerships, with the goal of raising environmental literacy by providing high-quality environment-based learning and hands-on education to all California K–12 students. Ten Strands acts as an incubator and a catalyst to create collaborations, build capacity, and transform systems to increase their impact and sustainability.

Copyright © Green Guardians Inc.

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