When Satvika Iyer came to NatureBridge at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 2018 with her middle school class, she expected that her visit would consist of cursory lessons about local wildlife, an easy hike and perhaps an evening campfire with her peers. Satvika had no idea that her actual experience would challenge her and permanently change her outlook on the world. “It was hard to believe that the rolling green hills, lush mountains, churning waves and the colorful wildflowers that peppered the hiking trails were so close to a world-renowned city," she reflected. “The drastic differences in the two places with such close proximity made me realize that it was how we treat the land around us that really shapes it.” Satvika returned home after her four-day, three-night program with a new enthusiasm for environmental stewardship and advocacy, passions she developed during her time with NatureBridge and has continued to champion since.
I left the Golden Gate experience at NatureBridge with an unstoppable motivation for action and a hunger to understand everything I could about the wide world around me. –Satvika Iyer, 2018 NatureBridge alum and 2023 Student of the Year
NatureBridge is the largest education partner of the National Park Service, hosting approximately 35,000 students each year and has welcomed over 1.6 million students since its founding in 1971. Through NatureBridge, students and young people are able experience the grandeur of Yosemite National Park’s towering natural granite structures, Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s stunning vistas overlooking an endless horizon across the Pacific Ocean, Olympic National Park’s ethereal temperate rainforest and Prince William Forest’s undulating Piedmont forest and valleys for a holistic outdoor experience that is rooted in foundational environmental science education. During their multi-day, overnight programs, NatureBridge educators tailor lesson plans based on school curriculum alignment and facilitate powerful team-building and personal development activities for students ranging from fourth through 12th grade. Students also have access to NatureBridge facilities that include historic dorm-style cabins, communal dining areas and carefully designed labs for hands-on learning spaces that foster curiosity and imagination about the natural world.
Originally developed by a high school teacher as a week-long adventure in Yosemite, NatureBridge was born out of a growing need for immersive, outdoor educational opportunities that traditional schools could not provide. For over four decades, academic studies have shown the undeniable impact of outdoor education on students through increased test scores and retention, enhanced social and emotional development, and a deeper connection with the world around them. Today, NatureBridge uses a highly effective curriculum model that has been informed and refined by over 50 years of field application, which has been studied by Stanford’s Doerr School of Sustainability and other outdoor schools around the world.
Key to NatureBridge’s mission is their commitment to ensuring equal access to public outdoor spaces for all students. That is why NatureBridge provides scholarship funds to schools who want students to experience immersive outdoor learning but do not have resources available to them by providing approximately $1.2 million to nearly 40% of participating schools every year.
NatureBridge’s impact on young people is felt by not only their student participants but also by their families, classmates, teachers and beyond. Students like Satvika have described how their experiences on NatureBridge programs altered their life trajectories, inspiring careers in hard sciences and environmental education, and bringing lessons on sustainability and conservation back to communities around the country. Their parents and teachers echo these sentiments, reinforcing the impact of the simple act of being in nature had on their students
NatureBridge's mission is to introduce students to the wonder and science of nature at a time when it is more critical than ever to get young people outdoors. By promoting an awareness of the interdependence of people and the environment, NatureBridge seeks to inspire ongoing learning to help develop new generations of scientists, conservationists and committed changemakers who understand the importance of the natural world.
Learn more about NatureBridge and its mission at naturebridge.org.
Name: Kenny Eng
Email: [email protected]