Stories from the Field

2019 Student of the Year Honorable Mention: Rylan Mamola

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The impact of the NatureBridge program on Montessori Elementary & Middle School of Tracy sixth grader Rylan Mamola was immediate. The moment Dr. Pamela Zell Rigg, School Curriculum Director, picked him and several other students up at the end of their four-day Environmental Science program in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Rylan was enthralled with his newfound knowledge of the natural world.

Speaking a mile-a-minute as he got in the van, he simply could not wait to share his ideas for taking his enthusiasm and zest for environmental stewardship forward. Rylan spoke with gusto of his adventures through the Marin Headlands, sightings of baby birds and a red-tailed hawk and visits to the Marine Mammal Center to learn about seals, sea lions and otters. Though despite his eagerness to share the knowledge he had acquired during the program, Rylan was still thoughtful of his peers sharing their own experiences, Pamela explained.

“The communication was not about Rylan, but rather the solidarity of the group, appreciation of the educators and the incredible experience that Nature Bridge had provided,” said Pamela. “Rylan builds each student's confidence and supports each student's expression. The students have such joy in his presence.”

Just two months after attending the NatureBridge program, Rylan arrived back at school in August and quickly helped establish a school-wide food consumption mindfulness initiative. Thanks to his efforts, students now bring only non-disposable containers to eat from at lunchtime.

As a result of this effort the school has no trash from lunch and our composting and gardening are in full swing. Rylan not only feels and speaks with passion and commitment, he acts with commitment. Rylan has helped to change this aspect of our school culture and operations!
Dr. Pamela Zell Rigg

Rylan credits his new outlook of the natural world to his educator Kim Orbik. Rather than looking at pictures of whales in a science book to learn about the dangers of littering, Rylan and his peers had the opportunity to spot two whales thriving in their natural environment. 

This thrilled him to see because unfortunately, the group had earlier encountered a whale that had died from consuming plastic. This part of the program really resonated with him. Upon understanding all the ways in which plastic ends up in our oceans, Rylan made a promise to no longer let his balloons be released into the air since they do not make it to space like he had previously thought but instead, come back down into the ocean.

NatureBridge is a place of happiness. It is a place where anyone could be anything. NatureBridge changed the way I look at the Earth, all thanks to my educator Kim Orbik and the NatureBridge organization.
Rylan Mamola

This year, in preparation for the next group of Montessori Elementary & Middle School of Tracy students to attend NatureBridge, Rylan has been called to serve as an ambassador and share his experience with each classroom. He himself is looking forward to a second NatureBridge program this coming June, this time in Yosemite National Park.

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