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Planting the seed of love for the outdoors

In early April, Elijah Bonde, an eight-year veteran of our school’s science department and the person responsible for bringing our science curriculum into the 21st century, traveled to San Antonio, Texas, for the annual conference of the National Science Teachers Association. He was invited to host a workshop at the conference after submitting a proposal to discuss his camping-based curriculum for our middle school students.

Bonde’s camping curriculum integrates appreciation for the outdoors with some of the more essential academic concepts for all three grades of science (sixth through eighth) at Nativity. For each of the three grade-level trips our students make each year, they earn a special diploma: sixth graders who travel to Anza-Borrego Desert and the Salton Sea to study earth science on a two-day overnight trip earn their “B.A.” in camping; seventh graders spend three days and two nights at Mount Laguna and earn their “M.A.” in camping; and our eighth graders spend the better part of a school week camping at Yosemite National Park to earn their “Ph.D.”

Nativity science coordinator Elijah Bonde leads a follow-up discussion at the NSTA Conference in San Antonio in April.

Nativity science coordinator Elijah Bonde leads a follow-up discussion at the NSTA Conference in San Antonio in April.

The goals of the camping curriculum, as designed by Bonde, are geared towards developing in our students a deeper appreciation for and understanding of our state’s natural resources and its myriad natural features. It is by design, therefore, that the camping curriculum begins in sixth grade with a focus on the ‘local landscape’ of the Southern California desert (Anza Borrego and the Salton Sea). Seventh graders reach a higher altitude—both literally and figuratively—through their multiple-day study of life science at Mount Laguna. And our eighth graders ‘peak,’ as it were, through their four-day trip to Yosemite National Park in Northern California.

The demand for such a curriculum as the one Bonde has put together over the course of the past five years here at Nativity seems to be growing. “There was a lot of interest from the conference goers in San Antonio to see how to build a science curriculum that integrates and focuses on the outdoors,” Bonde said of his recent presentation in San Antonio. “And I have been invited to attend another conference this summer to do the same,” he added, referring to the upcoming Pacific Division conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Las Vegas next month in June.

We congratulate Mr. Bonde for his commitment to providing such an enriching experience for our young middle school scientists and outdoor enthusiasts. Above all, we hope our students’ love for the outdoors continues to grow as they continue on to high school and college, and beyond.

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