5th graders from Flowery Elementary School participating in the capstone overnight camping trip at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park this Spring.

This Spring, Sonoma Ecology Center is thrilled to have launched our new overnight camping opportunity for our 5th grade and 6th grade students at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Every year, we provide environmental education for these students through our Watershed Education program. The overnight camps are the 5th and 6th graders’ capstone, end-of-year celebration and exploration event. Meadow View Elementary School students in Santa Rosa were the first classes to attend the campout.

At the overnight campout, students explored and camped at the Sonoma Creek headwaters at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. They participated in water sampling, a salmon dissection, creek exploring, and hiking. This pilot campout was a first time camping experience for many of these students.

Students from Meadowview Elementary School 6th grade class setting up tents at Sugarloaf’s overnight camping trip. This experience is the first time camping for many of these students. Photo courtesy of Christie Clark. 

“Our recent 5th-grade pilot campout at Sugarloaf was a fantastic adventure! Students experienced a thrilling 3-mile hike to a breathtaking waterfall, engaged in a salmon dissection experiment, and gazed at the stars through the observatory telescope at night. Feedback from the teacher was that the memories made at Sugarloaf are still buzzing through the classroom, with hopes that families will return to enjoy this experience together this summer! We were thrilled to share this pilot year with our first group of classes and look forward to welcoming 4-6 more schools into the program next year. Additionally, we’re actively developing an in-house camping gear library to provide support for up to two classes with all the necessary equipment, ensuring the continued growth and sustainability of our program,” says Tony Passantino, SEC’s Education Program Manager.

Left: Flowery Elementary School’s 5th graders learned fish anatomy from participating in a salmon dissection at our pilot overnight campouts. Right: Meadowview 6th graders going on a hike to explore Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Photo courtesy of Christie Clark.

Our pilot overnight campout series this year reached over 350 students, with over 50 students per grade level participating. In total, we were able to host two 6th grade classes from Meadowview Elementary School, two 5th grade classes from Flowery Elementary School, and three 5th grade classes from El Verano Elementary School. All of the participating classrooms come from schools that are a part of our partnership Sonoma Environmental Education Collaborative (SEEC)’s Pathways Project, which provides environmental literacy experiences to Title I underserved schools in our community.

We are grateful for the funding from the Community Foundation Sonoma County as part of their Environmental Pathways Grant to support these capstone pilot campouts at Sugarloaf this year.