We hope that outdoor education doesn't stop upon departure from SJOE and we're working hard to help teachers further their own education and that of their students. On this page, you'll find a growing number of resources that can help you - let us know if you'd like to see something else up here or if you have questions!

Fundraising Ideas

Recycle Place: collect ink jet, laser and toner cartridges to recycle and raise money.

TerraCycle: collect soda bottles to raise money.

Outdoor School Vocabulary

Adaptation - a physical or behavioral characteristic which enables an organism to live and reproduce in its environment

Alternation of generations - alternation within a species of a sexually reproducing generation and an asexually reproducing generation. EX: moss

Asexual reproduction - reproduction that does not involve the union of sperm and egg EX: fern, sea anemone

Camouflage - coloration or features which resemble an organism's environment such that it is less visible

Carnivore - an animal that exclusively eats meat. EX: coyote

Carrying Capacity - the total number of any species that a given habitat will support at any given time

Chlorophyll - green pigments in plants that absorb light energy necessary for photosynthesis

Competition - the struggle among organisms for food, water, shelter, space, and other requirements for survival

Community - a group of living organisms in a given area that interact with each other; the living component of an ecosystem

Consumer - an animal that eats plants (primary consumer) or other animals (secondary consumer). EX: rabbit (primary), hawk (secondary)

Crepuscular - active at dawn and/or dusk EX: deer

Deciduous - shedding leaves each year EX: maple, buckeye

Decomposer - an organism (mainly bacteria and fungi) which causes the mechanical and chemical breakdown of dead matter into simpler components EX: mushroom, banana slug

Diurnal - active during the day EX: squirrel

Ecology - the study of the interactions of organisms with each other and with their physical environment and of the results of such interactions

Ecosystem - a basic functional unit consisting of the interactions of organisms and their physical environment within a given area, ranging from a small meadow to the entire planet

Ectotherm (cold-blooded) - an organism with a body temperature that varies with that of the environment EX: amphibians, reptiles

Endotherm (warm-blooded) - an organism that regulates its body temperature internally through metabolic processes EX: birds, mammals

Environment - everything that surrounds an organism, including living and non-living matter

Evergreen - having leaves or needles all year round EX: some oaks, redwoods

Evolution - genetic changes within a species from one generation to the next as a consequence of processes such as natural selection

Food chain - the passage of energy (food) from producers to consumers

Food web - a network of interconnected food chains within a community

Habitat - the place in which individuals of a particular species live

Herbivore - an animal that exclusively eats plants EX: mouse

Hermaphrodite - an animal with both male and female sex organs EX: barnacle, banana slug

Interdependence - a relationship between two or more organisms in which the organisms are mutually dependent for survival

Invertebrate - an animal without a backbone EX: insects, most tidepool animals

Life Cycle - a series of stages in an organism's life including birth, growth, reproduction, and death

Metamorphosis - a process by which an immature animal transforms to an adult through a series of developmental stages

Natural selection - a process in nature by which organisms best adapted to their environment most commonly survive

Niche - the space in a community occupied by a given organism i.e. where it lives, where it gets its food, where it breeds

Nocturnal - active at night EX: owl

Nutrient cycle - the recycling of nutrients through the actions of producers, consumers, and decomposers

Nutrients - the building blocks of food

Omnivore - an animal that eats both plants and animals EX: raccoon

Organic - derived from living organisms

Organism - a living individual, plant, animal, or otherwise

Photosynthesis - the conversion of light energy (sunlight) to chemical energy (sugar) in plants using carbon dioxide and water in the presence of chlorophyll

Population - all individuals of one species living in a particular area

Predator- an animal that hunts, kills, and eats other animals

Prey - an animal that is hunted for food

Producer - an organism that produces its own food (plants)

Regeneration - the re-growth of a missing part or restoration of a new individual from part of the original EX: sea star

Scavenger - an animal which eats dead organic matter EX: vulture

Sexual reproduction - reproduction that involves sperm and egg EX: most animals

Species - a group of organisms that interbreed in nature and are reproductively isolated from all other such groups; a taxonomic grouping of morphologically similar individuals

Succession - a natural progression of changes in the environment which result in the transformation of habitats, such as meadow to forest

Taxonomy - the science of classifying organisms into groups which reflect their essential similarities and differences

Vertebrate - an animal with a backbone EX: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals

Water cycle - worldwide circulation of water molecules, powered by the sun, which involves evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and percolation

Common Flora and Fauna of the San Mateo Coast District

Plants Birds Mammals

Coastal Redwood                   Stellar's Jay                       Western Grey Squirrel
Douglas Fir                            Scrub Jay                            Chickaree Squirrel
Monterey Pine                       Red-tailed Hawk                 Merriam Chipmunk
California Buckeye                Turkey Vulture                   Blacktail (Mule) Deer
Pacific Madrone                     California Quail                   Raccoon
Tan (Tanbark) Oak                Acorn Woodpecker              Brush Rabbit
Coast Live Oak                      Hairy Woodpecker              Striped Skunk
California Laurel (Bay)          Downy Woodpecker             Spotted Skunk
Big Leaf Maple                      Yellow-bellied Sapsucker    Bobcat
Coyote Brush                         Great Horned Owl               Coyote
California Blackberry            Western Screech Owl        Opossum
Thimbleberry                        American Robin                    Western Grey Fox
California Wild Lilac              Western Meadowlark          Dusky-footed Woodrat
Coffee Berry                         Chestnut-backed Chickadee    Deer Mouse
Toyon                                     Oregon Junco                       Broad-footed Mole
Western Sword Fern            Anna's Humming bird           Pocket Gopher
Bracken Fern                         Golden-crowned Sparrow    Badger
Coastal Wood Fern                Song Sparrow                      Mountain Lion
Five-finger Fern                   Wrentit                                Bats
Western Chain Fern              Varied Thrush
Goldenback Fern                   Brown Creeper                     Reptiles and Amphibians
Horsetail                               Warbling Vireo
Redwood Sorrel                     Yellow Warbler                   Western Fence Lizard
Yerba Buena                           Orange-crowned Warbler   (Blue-bellied Lizard)
Miner’s Lettuce                   Rufous-sided Towhee          Western Skink Lizard
Poison Oak                             Brown Towhee                      Southern Alligator Lizard
Stinging Nettle                     Western Flycatcher             Rubber Boa Snake
Trillium                                  Black-headed Grosbeak        Western Ringneck Snake
Forget-Me-Not                      Brown-headed Cowbird         Sharp-tailed Snake
Douglas Iris                           Common Crow                        Racer Snake
Buttercup                              Common Raven                       Gopher Snake
Blue-eyed Grass                    Mourning Dove                       Common Kingsnake
Sticky Monkey Flower                                                        Western Garter Snake
Poison Hemlock                      Aquatic Insects                        Common Garter Snake
Western Hound's Tongue            Backswimmer                                    Pacific Giant Salamander

Plants Aquatic Insects Reptiles and Amphibians

Fat Solomon’s Seal                        Western Boatman                        California Newt
Slim Solomon’s Seal                        Nymphs:  Mayfly,                         California Slender
Turkey Mullein                            Dragonfly, Stonefly                                    Salamander
Wood Violet                                    Larvae:  Caddisfly,                        Pacific Treefrog
Wood Strawberry                           Whirligig, Mosquito                        Red-legged Frog
Wood Rose                                    Water Strider                                    Yellow-legged Frog
Scarlet Columbine                        Leech                                               
Bur Clover                                    Scud           
Bull Thistle                                    Diving Beetle                                    Banana Slug!!
Lichen                                                Water Scavenger Beetle

Plants Birds Tidepool Animals

Salt Grass                        Western Gull                                    Rock Louse
Yarrow                        California Gull                        California Mussel
Pickleweed                        Bonaparte’s Gull                        Mossy Chitin
Dodder                                    Heeman’s Gull                        Gumboot Chitin
Coyote Brush                        Mallard Duck                                    Black Turban Snail
Lupine                                    Wood Duck                                    Rough Limpet
Bush Lupine                        Canvasback Duck                        Keyhole Limpet
California Poppy            Ruddy Duck                                    Black Abalone
Cattails                        Cinnamon Teal                        Ochre Star
Tule                                    Pintail Duck                                    Bat Star
Pampas Grass                        Common Tern                                    Sunflower Star
Wild Buckwheat            Caspian Tern                                    Brittle Star
Wild Radish                        Foster’s Tern                                    Purple Urchin
Field Mustard                        American Coot                        Sea Cucumber
Dock                                    Red Winged Blackbird            Shore Crab
Poison Oak                        Long-billed Marsh Wren            Kelp Crab
Stinging Nettle            Double Crested Cormorant            Porcelain Crab
Sand Verbena                        Brown Pelican                                    Rock Crab
Ice Plant                        Great Blue Heron                        Hermit Crab
Sea Fig                        Great Egret                                    Sand Crab
California Poppy            Snowy Egret                                    Acorn Barnacle
Buttercup                        Western Grebe                        Goose Barnacle
Douglas Iris                        Eared Grebe                                    Aggregated Anemone
Sea Rocket                        Belted Kingfisher                        Giant Green Anemone
Wallflower                        Killdeer                                    Tidepool Sculpin
Beach Strawberry            Western Willet                        Eroded Periwinkle
Scotch Broom                        Marbled Godwit                        Sand Dollar
Beach Pea                        Long-billed Curlew                        Blenny Eel
Poison hemlock            Black-bellied Plover                        Little White Tube Worm
Beach Primrose            Black-necked Stilt                        Mussel Worm
Cow Parsnip                        American Bittern                        Sea Slugs
Beach Morning Glory            American Avocet                        Two Spot Octopus
Fiddleneck                        Western Sandpiper                       

Plants Birds Marine Mammals

Indian Paint Brush            Sanderling                                    California Sea Lion
Gum Plant                        Dunlin                                                Stellar (Northern) Sea Lion
Seaside Daisy                        Northern Harrier                        Northern Fur Seal
Thistle                        Red-tailed Hawk                        Harbor Seal
Vetch                                    Kestrel                                                Northern Elephant Seal
Wild Cucumber            Turkey Vulture                        California Grey Whale
Pearly Everlasting            Sparrow Hawk                        Sea Otter
Sweet Fennel                        Black-shouldered Kite
Brown Algae                        Bank Swallow
Shore Algae                        Barn Swallow
Sea Palm                        Cliff Swallow
Corallina                        House Finch
Ribbon Kelp                        American Goldfinch
Sea Lettuce                        Anna’s Hummingbird
Feather Boa Kelp            Western Meadow lark
                                    Whit-crowned Sparrow
                                    Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

Local History of Outdoor School

To gain a proper perspective and understanding of this area, it is important to know at least a little of its background history, beginning several thousand years ago with the Ohlone Indians. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, central California had the densest population of Native Americans north of Mexico. In the coastal area alone, extending from San Francisco Bay to Point Sur, lived over 10,000 Native Americans comprising approximately forty different groups, each with its own territory and chief. Among these groups, eight to twelve different languages were spoken. The Spaniards called these people collectively "Costenos," which means "coast people." Over time, the name developed into the English version, "Costanoans." Neither name was acknowledged by the Native Americans; instead, they chose to be called "Ohlone," possibly a tribal word meaning "western people."

The Ohlone were never a tribe such as the Navajo or Sioux but were rather many tribelets loosely affiliated through trade and marriage. While each tribelet had a major village site, as hunters and gatherers, their lives consisted of a series of treks from one harvest to another: to the seashore for shellfish, to the rivers for salmon, to the marshes for ducks and geese, to the oak groves for acorns, to the hills for seeds, roots, and greens. The land was so plentiful that the tribelets rarely needed to travel over 100 square miles during the year. The Oljon and Olpen tribelets, numbering approximately 500 natives, lived in an area of 50 square miles near what is now La Honda and Pescadero.

Unaware of the existence of these coastal people, the King of Spain claimed their land as his own in 1585. The king ignored these holdings until the eighteenth century, when Russian fur trappers began to exploit the coast and its resources. In 1769, the king appointed Gaspar de Portola, accompanied by several priests including Fray Junipero Serra, to establish missions in the coastal area and thus colonize the Spanish territory. Leaving San Diego in July, Portola and his men arrived in this area in October, where they were welcomed by the Ohlone with gifts of seed cakes and deer meat.

Between 1770 and 1797, the priests established six missions in Ohlone territory. The priests had hoped to draw the Ohlone into the missions with the promise of an abundant life: there they would serve as apprentices, learning the European way of life - such as weaving, agriculture, and carpentry - and the teachings of the Christian faith. After several years, these Native Americans would be given land to set up farms around the missions as an example to draw more converts. However, the missions were soon filled to capacity, and conditions within the missions became crowded and depressed. European diseases, for which the Ohlone had no immunities, passed through the missions in devastating epidemics, killing one-third of the mission population. Many of the Ohlone refused to learn Christian doctrine and European skills, and often they attempted to escape.

Perhaps the most well known Ohlone in Native American folklore is Chief Pomponio, who escaped from a mission after being unceremoniously stripped of his tribal authority. Determined to seek revenge, he emerged in 1820 as a leader of a small band of rebels. For several years, he raided various missions, gathering more Ohlone sympathetic to his cause, and leaving a trail of robberies, murders, and rapes. After several unsuccessful attempts, the Spaniards captured Pomponio in 1823. According to legend, Pomponio's hideout was at the source of what is now called Pomponio Creek.

During the 1820's, Mexico won its independence from Spain, and in 1834 the Mexican government ordered all California missions to be closed and all their lands to be parceled out to men of good Spanish ancestry. At this time, the natives were released. Yet, the 64-year mission period had done irrevocable damage to the Ohlone people: not only had their numbers been significantly depleted by disease, but basket-making and other crafts were lost, rituals and dances were confused and forgotten, and native languages were dropped in favor of Spanish.

With the arrival of Anglo settlers during the same time period, conditions declined even further. While the Spaniards at least treated the natives as humans, most settlers showed nothing but contempt and disgust toward the Native Americans, and many natives were ruthlessly killed. In 1848, in the Treaty of Guadalupe, California was ceded to the United States, and by the 1860's the few remaining Ohlone had gathered in small ghetto-like villages and attempted to retrieve their lost culture. But as more settlers arrived, these groups gradually disappeared. The last full-blooded Ohlone died just a few years ago.

Meanwhile, the lumber industry on the peninsula was rapidly expanding. Sawmill activity in this area began as early as 1856 and continued until 1935, with more than fourteen mills supplying much of the peninsula with lumber, including San Francisco after the devastation of the earthquake in 1906. Trees too large to haul or with grain unsuitable for commercial lumber were often used to make shingles. Shingle mills, such as the mill operated on Pescadero Creek by John Dudfield until 1913, produced up to 100,000 shingles per day.

During the early lumbering years, lumber and shingles were shipped by sea at Pigeon Point, most likely transported to the coast along Old Haul Road, which runs through both camp sites. By the early 1900's a three-day route had been established to carry lumber from this area to a lumberyard in Palo Alto as well. The first day was spent hauling lumber over Haskins' Hill, named after Aaron Haskins, who operated a local shingle mill on 500 acres of land between present-day Memorial Park and La Honda, to La Honda in wagons drawn by six horses. The second day was spent traveling over Old La Honda Road to Palo Alto, and the third day returning to camp.

Lumber camp crews arrived in Jones Gulch in 1916. Thirty cabins were constructed for lumbermen and their families in what is now the Conference area of camp. After two previous mill fires, a third mill (later converted to the present dining hall) was constructed on the property in 1923 and was in operation through 1926. Evidence of logging in this area includes stumps, notches for springboards, and iron cables used to haul lumber. Sometime during this era, perhaps 1928, a fire passed through the region, leaving many scars still visible today.

In 1932, S.M. Black, who had acquired the property, offered to sell the 427 acres containing the developed area to the Y.M.C.A. for $15,000. At the same time she also offered to donate to the "Y" the 527 undeveloped acres on the other side of Pescadero Road. In 1934 this transaction was completed, and Jones Gulch has been a Y.M.C.A. camp ever since.


Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education: a California-based professional group that hosts conferences and has a website full of great resources.

Acorn Naturalists: a store filled with great teaching tools for the classroom or outdoors!

Banana Slug String Band: an environmental education musical group - we use a lot of their songs here at SJOE!

ECOlogical Calendar: a beautiful poster calendar based on the natural world.


Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell