“Letting us get out into the environment just lets us be grateful for what we have as well as bonding with other people and appreciating our environment around us.” ”
This October, more than 200 students from San Jose’s Harker School hit the trails at Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve to perform important seasonal trail maintenance work while learning about our natural environment and enjoying the outdoors.
The project was part of the school’s annual Freshman Day of Service, which connects students with community projects. This is the third year that Harker students have volunteered in our open space preserves. In 2017 and 2018, the group worked at Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. This year, the students worked to remove debris along the Mayfair Ranch Trail at Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve. Led by Open Space Authority staff and volunteers, the students worked on widening a 1.25 mile-long section of trail and making it safer for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.
“It was definitely fun. A lot of fresh air, bonding with friends, and hiking around – good exercise too,” said Sara, one of the participating ninth-grade students.
Armaan, another ninth grader, agreed about the positive experience. “You get to hike up, you get to enjoy nature while cleaning up, and you feel like you’re giving back to the community.”
“We got a little bit dirty, but it was all smiles!” said Andy Burnside, Lead Open Space Technician.
After working on the trails (and having lunch!), the students participated in educational activities led by their teachers, Open Space Authority staff, and volunteer docents, who shared the history of local Native Americans, plants, and wildlife.
Beyond just teaching lessons about the outdoors, the Authority believes the experience will empower students to take an active role in protecting our environment.
“To get these young adults involved with this early is a massive thing. It gives them ownership… it gives them a big main drive on why they should protect and enjoy this open space… it turns them into advocates,” said Burnside.
Stephen Woodson, Open Space Technician, agrees. “[Volunteering outside] gives them a very good connection to the land.”
Michelle, one of the participating ninth grade students agrees, sharing how these kinds of experience benefit youth. “It's just super important to educate children at a younger age so later on they’re more informed and they can do more to help the Earth, considering that we’re in a climate crisis at the moment.”
Sara, a ninth grader, shared how the work gave important perspective and access to the environment. “Nowadays because of the rise of technology, our generation is a lot more invested in their cell phones and such, and letting us get out into the environment just lets us be grateful for what we have as well as bonding with other people and appreciating our environment around us.”
We’re grateful for this partnership and proud of all these students for giving their time to care for open space!