In 2015, a classroom full of excited sixth graders from Saint Mark's School left their homes in Altadena, CA and traveled north to visit one of America’s beautiful public lands: Olympic National Park.
With no expectations or picture in their minds, two of these sixth grade students from the dry, arid Southern California climate were particularly impacted by the lush, magical forest they discovered.
Growing up in downtown LA and Pasadena, Siara Edwards didn’t experience much diversity in the outdoor environments she visited. Spending time in nature meant hanging at the beach in Santa Monica and hiking in the Los Angeles National Forest or Sierra Nevadas. The nature she discovered in Olympic—forested, green and dewey—was unlike anything she had ever seen.
Molly Hill, on the other hand, had been to other parks and forests, but regional and on a much smaller scale. There were mountains near her childhood home, but no wilderness spaces as disconnected from city life as what she found in Olympic National Park.
Olympic offered a unique experience. With NatureBridge, Molly and Siara studied the Elwha River during a time when scientists were collecting data to determine the river’s health before the Elwha dams were fully removed. For Molly and Siara, seeing the Elwha Watershed Restoration Project in action changed their idea of what science really looked like.
Olympic was a learning haven outside of the traditional classroom. NatureBridge created a shared bonding experience for the entire class, and it created a lasting memory in the minds of Molly and Siara.
Fast forward three years to high school. When Molly and Siara heard their school was offering an opportunity for students to design a community-service based outdoor education trip, they jumped at the chance to contribute to the initiative. Starting a program that could be similar to NatureBridge fueled them to help make it happen.