Over the coming weeks we’d like to share some memories of current and former Sempervirens staff. The first in this series is by Jacob Sackin, who was Program Director at Sempervirens from 2007-2013. Jacob is currently serving as a member on the Board of Directors, sharing his talents and experience with Exploring New Horizons. Here is his story…
I’m saddened to hear the news of Sempervirens having to find a new home, and wanted to share some thoughts and memories of how the program has adapted over the years.
My first memory of Sempervirens was as a naturalist working at a nearby outdoor school. I came to the site in the fall of 2000 to do a bird language workshop, and heard ENH was going to start a new program that spring. There was no garden, the then tent cabins were empty, and that night as a few of us slept in sleeping bags out in the field we talked about the excitement and challenge of having a blank canvas to build an outdoor school program upon.
Three years later, subbing for a few weeks as a naturalist at Sempervirens, I was amazed to see the giant and beautiful garden the staff had made and how much the program revolved around it. Students often helped cook dinner for the whole outdoor school in the kitchen using vegetables they’d harvested from the garden that day.
By 2007, when I started as principal, the program now ran the full school year with nearly 2,000 students a year. With this growth, however, the small size of the trail system became an obstacle, and over the next couple years we worked to open up more trails around the school, and to build our first trail that led to a waterfall. This vision of a bigger and better trail system was finally fully realized in 2013 with the completion of the Kaylor Crest Trail, giving Sempervirens more trails than a trail group could hike in a week.
Each year provided a unique opportunity to deepen the program, whether it was students milking the goats, viewing squid dissections at the beach, harvesting and planting native plant seeds around the site, or incorporating watersheds more into the curriculum, as SVOS sits at the headwaters of both Waddell Creek (running toward Big Basin) and the San Lorenzo River (running toward Boulder Creek).
My greatest memory however is probably listening to the students, counselors, and teachers share their favorite memories at closing ceremony and listening to their cry of “Yes” echo off the redwood trees.
Although the move to Camp Krem will be challenging, each week of outdoor school is kind of a blank canvas. An outdoor school program and its curriculum are built around the land in which it makes its home, but each week a new outdoor school is created and disbanded, as it is the students, counselors, teachers, and naturalists who make up the school. Although each of the many outdoor schools that have been created at Sempervirens over the past 17 years only existed for one week, each of them will last forever in the memories of the more than 35,000 students, counselors, teachers and naturalists who have made up the program since its start in 2000, and I’m excited to see the many more unique outdoor schools that are to come, and how Sempervirens continues to adapt to its environment.