For over 40 years, local elementary school children have explored the mudflat, searched for crabs, and felt the joy of scientific discovery on Bay Shore Studies field trips. Volunteers lead 3rd-5th graders in hands-on exploration of the natural world revealed at low tide, and guide students’ own discovery of each organism’s role in the ecology of San Francisco Bay. The two hour program also focuses on developing scientific practices, making individual connections to the bay, and discussing responsible environmental stewardship.
Bay Shore Studies volunteers see the transformative power of the science adventures they lead. As Wendy Reichardt told The Ark in January, "Seeing the kids’ faces as they make connections to the natural world around them…feels like we are making an impact.” “…there are kids who don’t want to get wet or dirty, but by the end of the day they have a crab in their hands who’s their friend and has a name.
The program was started in the early 1970’s when Lani Uhry, an SF State alum and Tiburon resident, saw a need for older elementary school kids to learn science outside along the bay shore. Working with dedicated community volunteers, including volunteer educators from Audubon Canyon Ranch, and Phil Shaeffer, the first director of Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary, Lani led the establishment of the Bay Shore Studies program at the Audubon Center. The program blossomed with the input of many dedicated volunteers and educators from the community and the staff.
SF State has always had a strong educational connection to the program, providing informal and formal training for its volunteers. When the Audubon Center was no longer able to provide administrative support for the program, it was an easy decision for the EOS Center to lend a helping hand and become the new home for the Bay Shore Studies program. “The Bay Shore Studies volunteer docents represent the long tradition of environmental leadership, support for science and civic engagement of our local community,” said Karina Nielsen, Executive Director of the EOS Center. “We are excited to help ensure this wonderful educational program continues to benefit future generations of school kids.”
Now, the EOS Center provides administrative support, professional learning programs for new and existing docents, and meeting rooms for the docents. Inspired by the dedication of the docents and joy of the children, a few of EOS Center staff and graduate students have become field trip leaders, too. They have also worked hand-in-hand with the docent volunteers to refresh the program so it meets Next Generation Science Standards that schools are required to teach. Richardson Bay Audubon Center continues to provide essential support to the program by allowing the Bay Shore Studies field trips to continue on Lani’s Beach. “The Bay Shore Studies volunteers love opening children's eyes to the wonders of San Francisco Bay,” said Carla Studwell, a Bay Shore Studies volunteer. “And we're so grateful we can continue doing just that. Hard work by our [EOS Center] friends have made it possible."
Kids and teachers alike appreciate the opportunity for a low tide adventure on Lani’s Beach. Schools come from all over Marin and Sonoma Counties to participate in the fee-based program. “My students could not stop talking about all the wonderful sea creatures they unearthed during the trip to the estuary. They compared notes in regards to the size of the crabs they found. In addition they talked about the different adaptation each creature possessed comparing and contrasting the different species with others they have studied in the Science Pathways Program. Many came back muddy and happy! Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity…” Louis Edney, teacher, Bayside MLK. Fees paid by schools and community donations cover the costs of supplies, materials and fee waivers for schools that would not be able to participate otherwise.
For more information about the Bay Shore Studies program, to become a Bay Shore Studies volunteer, or to make a donation to help support students hands on learning, please click HERE.