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Educational Services Division

Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School

Redwood Forest Comes Alive with the Winter Rains

Kids in a tree Often referred to as “The Best Week Ever,” The Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School experience is available to fifth and/or sixth grade students accompanied by their classroom teacher who spend four or five days living on site. Students participate in field study classes in the redwood forest, at the edge of the creek, in the chaparral, and in the meadow. The most useful tools for discovery are readily available: the students' five senses. Naturalists guide the students’ hands-on learning experience on trail through exploration, observation, educational games, songs, art and poetry.

“I wish schools could incorporate more of the team building and hands-on education that outdoor school is so good at providing”
Parent, Bonny Doon Elementary School

Newt in hands At Outdoor Science School the learning happens on many levels….the most fun, perhaps, being ground level. During the winter time, the redwood forest comes alive with banana slugs, newts and salamanders. Through exploration, students learn about how to interact with these creatures and the natural world in a way that is safe and respectful. They discover characteristics of the California newt at “Newts Paradise,” a large, seasonal puddle on the trail where hundreds of newts live in the winter. Along the trail, students with keen eyes may spot a banana slug. This provides an amazing teachable opportunity for the naturalist to share all kinds of interesting facts about the yellow, slimy decomposers. Students who are brave can join the “I kissed a banana slug” club (over 4,000 members and counting). The luckiest field study groups may encounter the Pacific giant salamander. Often over a foot long, they are the largest terrestrial salamander in North America.

“My son had a wonderful and memorable time. He shared a lot of his knowledge with his family. He talked for days about his experiences at outdoor school.”
Parent, Calabasas Elementary School

Kids cracking up at campfire During their week-long experience exploring the forest, students begin to develop a personal connection with our natural world from which a deeper concern and sense of responsibility for the environment can result. This experience and personal connection is something that cannot be learned in a textbook and it is a memory that students hold onto for a lifetime.

“I had four boys in my car on the way home and ran out of tissue. They were so sad to leave. One boy said if felt like he was leaving family!”
Parent, Sacred Heart Elementary, Salinas

Sequoia on trail Recently the Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School has partnered with the Every Child Outdoors Foundation. Every Child Outdoors is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization with a mission to provide Santa Cruz Outdoor Science School scholarships to schools in lower income communities. It was developed on a principle of equity in hopes that all students in Santa Cruz County will have the opportunity to attend the Outdoor Science School regardless of income.

Kids in a circle

For further information about the Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School check out our website at

For more information regarding the Every Child Outdoors Foundation, contact the Outdoor Science School director and Foundation board chair, Heather MacDougall at 831-466-5715.

Santa Cruz County Office of Education  |  400 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060  |  831.466.5600  |  Fax: 831.466.5607
The Santa Cruz County Office of Education provides quality educational programs and services to a diverse community.