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Oprah: Thanks for helping kids go to Yosemite!
May 22, 2011 - 6:20pm
Dear Oprah Winfrey,
I’m writing to thank you for a wonderful occurrence here in Yosemite National Park this spring.
As a result of your Yosemite trip last fall, a diverse group of third graders who had never before visited a national park or even hiked outside, had a week of exploration, education, and discovery at NatureBridge’s Yosemite Institute campus.
“I was looking for ways of bringing the experience of Yosemite into the classroom. What I found out was that I could bring them out into the experience and bring the classroom out here,” said teacher Richard Pugh from Anna Yates Elementary in Emeryville, California. At this school, 56% of students are African-American, 16% Hispanic, and 9% Asian-American.
While school teachers and NatureBridge staff are dedicated to bringing diverse students from all walks of life to national parks for environmental education programs, it can be challenging to convince school administrators that the trip is worth it.
The Oprah Effect
This is where you come in! An administrator at Anna Yates saw your program on Yosemite and did some investigating. The school administration decided that a trip with NatureBridge was appropriate for a group of predominantly black students, would allow them to learn about the natural world in a safe environment, and was an important step in the development of tomorrow’s diverse leaders and environmental stewards.
We cannot thank you enough for the role you played in showing that the national parks belong to us all.These third-graders learned about lichen and moss and the history of Yosemite National Park. Like you, they met with Ranger Shelton Johnson and learned about the Buffalo Soldiers. They were sprayed by the mist of Yosemite Falls, learned about the importance of snowmelt in California hydrology, and spent time writing reflections of their visit in traditional bark homes in the Ahwahneechee Village.
Third-grader Malinalli Cervantes said it best: "We got to see great things that a lot of people want to see, and be in a peaceful place and have a great adventure.”
Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., is chair of the Board of Directors at NatureBridge.