New Partnership Between WOLF School and Rocketship Education Makes Outdoor Education Possible for Bay Area Charter Students

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Non-Profit, Rocketship Education, Gets Low-Income Kids Outside for Environmental Science Camp

Rocketship Program Kids

Our week at camp was a never-ending opportunity for students to be curious, ask questions, and investigate the scientific method.

Bay Area-based non-profits Web of Life Field (WOLF) School and Rocketship Education have partnered for the 2016-17 schoolyear to bring 5th grade students from ten Rocketship Bay Area elementary charter schools to WOLF School’s Yosemite-area campus, Camp Tuolumne Trails, for customized residential outdoor science school trips tailored to Rocketship’s economic and curricular needs. Already this partnership has brought 101 students and 20 teachers to camp, with 213 more students and another 20 teachers from Rocketship slated to attend WOLF School through March 2017.

Founded in 2007 in the heart of Silicon Valley, Rocketship Education is a non-profit network of public elementary charter schools serving primarily low-income students in neighborhoods where access to excellent schools is limited. While Rocketship has grown to encompass schools around the country, their birthplace remains their largest sector, comprised of ten schools in San Jose, one school in Redwood City, and one school in Concord. This network of schools, referred to as Rocketship Bay Area, together serve over 6,000 TK-5th grade students, 84% of which qualify for free and reduced price meals.

More than just running high-quality schools, Rocketship addresses the underlying factors that help to eliminate the achievement gap for students: quality teachers, dedicated leaders, engaged parents, and active communities. This support network aims at developing the whole child, giving students every opportunity to become well-rounded individuals and successful adults.

“An integral component in our achieving Rocketship’s mission of closing the achievement gap is getting kids in low-income communities as prepared for the world as their counterparts in any other school district,” says Alyssa Warren, Schools Team Senior Associate for Rocketship Education. “We have vast natural resources in California, yet many of our students have never even left San Jose. Our obligation is to expand student’s horizons beyond their hometown, and an incredible way to do that is through the life-changing outdoor experiences gained at science camp—a rite of passage for many of California’s students. It is one piece of a big puzzle, but it is definitely an important piece.”

From 2010-2016, Rocketship Bay Area succeeded in running their own, teacher-led science camp program for 5th grade students at a camp and conference center available for rent called Camp Tuolumne Trails. Located just outside of Yosemite National Park, the camp provides students the chance to connect to California’s public lands and a stunning natural landscape where they can learn hands-on outdoor education. Each year the experience had a profoundly positive impact on their students; so much so, that ahead of the 2016-17 schoolyear, Rocketship began searching for a sustainable solution to make sure that future students could continue to benefit from science camp.

Warren continues, “While we teach science in our schools, it is the hands-on learning that makes science come alive. Not only that, students gain immense social skills when they go off together and see each other in a new setting. Camp inspires positive risk-taking, and there is a new level of trust and maturity seen in students after a week of outdoor science school. It allows them to be their truer self. That is why we wanted to find a way to continue offering this to our students for many years to come.”

At the urging of Camp Tuolumne Trails’ facility director, Rocketship reached out to an outdoor school also operating at the camp: WOLF School. As it turns out, they were the missing puzzle piece.

Since 1989, WOLF School has excelled at providing residential, outdoor education programs for California’s K-12th grade students, and the organization is known for their ability to interweave state standard’s based science curriculum with customized lessons that support both teachers’ classroom instruction and individual student groups. Driven by their mission of “building respect, appreciation, and stewardship within the web of life,” WOLF School believes in the transformative power of the outdoors for all students when given the opportunity to make connections to their environment, themselves, and their communities. Homebased in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Little Basin Cabins and Campgrounds, part of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, WOLF School operates at multiple professionally-managed camps throughout California, including Camp Tuolumne Trails.

“We are so thrilled to partner with Rocketship Bay Area,” says WOLF School Director Heather Butler. “One of our biggest goals as an organization seems simple but can be surprisingly difficult: get kids outdoors. We strive to bring the outdoor educational experience to all youth regardless of barriers, and we became motivated to find a way to get Rocketship’s students to camp, to get them outdoors.”

Initially concerned at the cost of an outdoor school with the expertise of WOLF School, Rocketship quickly discovered one of WOLF School’s key values: affordability. WOLF School worked to tailor a program that fit within Rocketship’s budget, and Camp Tuolumne Trails owners, the Bill and Paula Baker Foundation, offered a discount to further reduce camp costs. Additionally, WOLF School developed a curriculum specifically for Rocketship Education, meeting their educational requirements and easing the burden from teachers. The outcome: a sustainable solution ensuring the continuation of outdoor education for Rocketship Bay Area’s future 5th grade students.

“I was so excited to learn that we would be partnering with WOLF School!” shared Caitlin Malloy, a teacher at Rocketship Brilliant Minds, located in San Jose. “Our week at camp was a never-ending opportunity for students to be curious, ask questions, and investigate the scientific method. They discovered elements about themselves and each other as people, too, and have since carried a new sense of team with them back to our campus. The program could not have gone any better; I would recommend WOLF School to anyone and everyone.”

“Rocketship’s students arrive at WOLF School with such appreciative attitudes and astonishing academic preparedness,” Butler adds. “They are so receptive to the experience, and our naturalists are having as much fun teaching as the students are learning.”

During the 2016-17 schoolyear, WOLF School will serve Rocketship’s one Redwood City-based school: Redwood City Prep, and nine of Rocketship’s San Jose-based schools: Discovery Prep, Spark Academy, Mateo Sheedy Elementary, Alma Academy, Si Se Puede Academy, Brilliant Minds, Los Suenos Academy, Fuerza Community Prep, and Mosaic Elementary. The future goal is to include Rocketship’s two new Bay Area elementary schools, and to spread this successful model for outdoor education to all of their schools throughout the country.

Visit wolfschool.org to learn more about these organizations.

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