Gabriela Contreras's picture
A Student to Steward Story: Siara & Molly
Gabriela Contreras
September 5, 2018 - 2:55pm
 
 
 
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.
 
Molly is on the left, and Siara kneeling below to the right.
 
“The NatureBridge trip made me closer to classmates who I hadn’t talked to before,” Siara shared. “Bonding over service was more exciting than any other type of trip. I felt like I was getting to go back, admire nature and also give back.”
 
Molly’s vision for the program, however, goes beyond just admiring nature and giving back.
 
“The long-term goal with the program is to incorporate more partnerships with scientists in an effort to add legitimacy to the data we are collecting, like what we experienced with NatureBridge and the Elwha Watershed Restoration Project in Olympic National Park,” she said.
 
In collaboration with Positive Adventures and Polytechnic School’s community outreach coordinator, the freshmen helped design a week-long trip to Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore that will include service projects such as trail maintenance and invasive plant removal. Best of all, the trip aims to be zero-waste, meaning that no landfill trash will be produced. The inaugural trip will take place this September.
 
The two sophomores have also had other environmental pursuits: Siara is starting a composting and Terra Cycle deposit at her school. Molly is part of the leadership team for the Sustainability Council and Environmental Club. Both girls hope to pursue careers in environmental activism.
 
Siara now attends high school in Denver, CO, but she doesn’t intend on letting that stop her from making an impact in her community.
 
The two friends, who have gone to school together since kindergarten, will be parting ways as they enter their sophomore year; but their combined efforts to help make this trip come to life will serve as their legacy.