East Bay Project: Parks in Focus with a twist!

“Talk about a whirlwind! Just yesterday, we were up at Muir Woods, looking at the creeks and admiring the trees…And today, we left our campsite to the waterfront at Jack London Aquatic Center, smelling the ocean, seeing the starfish, and watching as boats rumble by…I will be so sad to leave, but I can almost imagine my excitement when I come back. Not if – when.  And I know I will.~Simone, age 12

Over the last few weeks, you may have noticed photographs from what we’ve been calling the “East Bay Immersion Experience” in our Featured Photo of the Week posts. By now, you’ve probably read quite a bit about our year-round community development initiative and classic summer immersion trips, and you may have been wondering what the East Bay Immersion Experience was all about. To put it simply, the East Bay Immersion Experience was Parks in Focus with a twist; a unique variation on our typical program model born out of new collaborations with the National Park Service (NPS), East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), and four East Bay municipalities.

On October 22-23 Parks in Focus, NPS, EBRPD, and leaders from Concord, Hayward, Oakland, and Richmond teamed up to introduce middle school youth to area parks through digital photography. In just two short days, 19 youth participants and 12 adult leaders traveled (on a big yellow school bus!) to six natural, cultural, and historic sites within the region. Our trip leaders were an eclectic mix of Udall Foundation staff and alumni volunteers, NPS rangers, an EBRPD naturalist, and youth leaders from each municipality represented. Together, our crew logged 750 collective outdoor education hours and snapped 5,000 photos on our whirlwind journey to Mount Tamalpais State Park, Muir Beach & Muir Woods National Monument, Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park, Anthony Chabot Regional Park, and Jack London Aquatic Center.

Trip highlights included:

  • Onsite interactive introductions to Regional, State, & National Parks provided by rangers
  • Ongoing photography challenge assignments emphasizing storytelling and self-expression
  • Sharing a collective moment of silence under the breathtaking redwood canopy at Muir Woods
  • An exclusive tour of the SS Red Oak Victory ship at Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park
  • Setting up tents (many for the first time) & coming together for evening campfire songs led by special guest Rick Parmer (EBRPD Chief of Interpretive and Recreation Services)
  • An exploratory morning nature/bird/photography walk with abundant wildlife siting
  • Teaming up to paddle the entire crew in a dragon boat at Jack London Aquatic Center

To cap off the amazing weekend, 50 family members and friends came together to share a meal and learn about participants’ experiences at a final closing ceremony attended by special guests Mickey Fearn (NPS Deputy Director for Communications and Community Assistance) and Bob Doyle (EBRPD General Manager). To get a taste of what our trip participants shared with their families and friends, be sure to check out photographs of the trip (taken by Amanda Fencl, Udall Scholar alum and PIF volunteer) and taken by the kids on our Flickr site!

Camping 101: learning to set up tents!

“The thing I would love to remember is the new experiences I had.  Seeing new birds and snakes, and especially the new people I met.  I will cherish this moment forever. ” ~Noor, age 14

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