(Contributed photo)

WATSONVILLE — With hikes through the woods and sloughs, ropes courses high in the redwoods and a study of water ecosystems, a new program at New School Community Day School has taken students outside the traditional classroom setting.

The Environmental Outdoor Science and Character Development Program was created as a way to offer outdoor education to the students, but also to offer team-building and self-confidence building activities.

“What we stressed is the relationship between students and their environment, working together as a team and getting to know themselves,” said New School science teacher and athletic director Russell Bryan Love.

The program, which runs once a week for four weeks, was created by Love, along with Growing Up Wild, a Watsonville organization that connects young people to nature. Pajaro Valley Unified School District Science Coordinator Rob Hoffman helped write the $1,500 Schools Plus grant that partially funded the program, and also helped plan the activities.

Growing Up Wild founder Ismael Cruz said the program was created on the belief that experiencing nature is the best way to learn about it.

“We live in a community where we’re surrounded by nature, but there is a lack of relevant opportunities to learn about the environment,” Cruz said.

Aranxa Ruis, 17, called the program “fun,” and said she most enjoyed the ropes course, in which participants attached to ropes climb high into the trees and complete an obstacle course.

“I like heights and I like challenging myself,” she said. 

Aaliyah Ayala, 15, also said she liked the high-altitude challenge, but said she also enjoyed the nature walk, which fit in with her own weekly routine of hikes in Nisene Marks State Park.

“It was a good experience for a lot of these people,” she said.

The Environmental Outdoor Science and Character Development Program was funded by Growing Up Wild and a $1,500 grant.

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