As an 8th grader at Denman, my science teacher, Mr. Fox, introduced me to the Headlands program. I had never thought of myself as an outdoorsy person, but I found the program intriguing. I joined because I thought it’d be a fun getaway from school (we were excused from class). A couple of my other close friends joined the program as well.Richard Lautze led the program and we would meet a couple of times a month. I never thought I would have so much fun planting things. Some of the activities that we would partake in is planting new plants or removing weeds. It sounds pretty tedious and boring, but Richard made getting your hands dirty, pretty fun. I remember one time we hiked down to the beach and a few of the other kids were trying to outrun the tides. Imagine a bunch of kids decked out in raincoats and wellies running up and down the beach. Well, it looked pretty fun so I decided to join in. That was the day I realized that I wasn’t as fast as a runner than I thought I was. I fell into the water and got myself all wet. Another fond memory I had from the program was Richard teaching me how to ride a bike for the first time. Everyone else in my group already knew how to ride a bike so I was the only one left out. It took a while for me to get a hang of it, but once I got the hang of it, I was having the time of my life. That is, until I went a little too fast and fell overboard. But I didn’t just fall anywhere; I fell to the side of the path where it was still wet from the rain before. It seems as though I was always getting myself into not-so-pleasant situations, but I had the time of my life and wouldn’t do anything differently. I grew up in the city all my life and never had the chance to experience the outdoors. Through the Headlands program I learned great appreciation for the outdoors. The program was my getaway from the busy city life and I loved it. Middle school students can greatly benefit from this program because it will give them fun and productive activities to do. Not only are they having fun but they are also learning about the environment in the meantime. With the media constantly talking about climate change and advocating less carbon footprint, the program is a creative way to steer kids in the right the direction at a young age. Judy is a former member of the Aim High Environmental Club at James Denman Middle School and is currently a senior at San Francisco State University majoring in business. She also provides invaluable communications support – including contributions to this blog – as Marketing and Events Intern in the Aim High office.
In the Tennessee Valley of the Marin Headlands, Aim High students have been working since 1996 to restore habitat and restore watershed lands as official Site Stewards in partnership with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Part outdoor ed, part leadership retreat, and part volunteer project, the Aim High Headlands Environmental Home program serves nearly 300 students each year and provides more than 1,500 service hours to the park. In the summer, 9th graders from Aim High sites in San Francisco spend one week in the Headlands as the capstone of Aim High’s multi-year science and youth development curriculum. During the school year, students from Aim High Environmental Clubs at two partner middle schools in San Francisco visit the Headlands monthly to continue restoration work and experience the outdoors. Judy Lei, a former participant in the Aim High Environmental Club at Denman Middle School (and current intern in the Aim High office), recently reflected on her experience in the Headlands, where she discovered the joy of getting her hands dirty, played in the Pacific surf, and rode a bike for the first time. “I grew up in the city all my life and never had the chance to experience the outdoors,” she writes. “The program was my getaway from the busy city life and I loved it.” Judy writes: