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Native Plant Forest of San Lorenzo High

Youth Served
Community Activity Days
Nature Area Trips

Amount $305,420
Grantee Growing Together
Award Year 2022
Funding Source General Fund, Outdoor Equity Program
Project Type Program Operation
Project Status


Conduct the Native Plant Forest of San Lorenzo High program for residents near San Lorenzo High School in San Lorenzo. This program will include approximately 22 activity days in the community for approximately 1,000 participants and approximately 14 trips to natural areas for approximately 400 participants during four years of programming.

Activities in the community will include Native Tree and Plant Education; California Ecostsystems; Exploring Different Plant Uses; Empowering Students to Learn About for Environmental Justice; and Introducing Students to Environmental Careers.

Trips to natural areas outside of the community will include Coyote Hills Regional Park; Natulralist Led Boat Trip at Lake Chabot; Tilden Regional Parks Botanic Garden; Año Nuevo State Park; and NatureBridge Yosemite/Marin Headlands.

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Community Home Base Location
50 E Lewelling Blvd San Lorenzo, CA 94580
County Alameda
Assembly District AD 20 Liz Ortega (D)
Senate District SD 09 Nancy Skinner (D)
Congressional District CD 14 Eric Swalwell (D)

Annual Report Details

Programs may span from one year to multi-year, not to exceed four years. The specific length of the program is contained in the description above.

Category Total
Youth Served 2,143
Days for Activities in the Community 94
Nature Area Trips 6

List of Educational Goals Achieved


For goals 2, 3, and 5, we are focusing on work with during-school teachers, to facilitate lessons in which students explore CA ecosystems, learn uses of native plants, and become engaged in topics of environmental justice. For goals 1, 4 and 5, we are focusing on work with the “Druids Club” after-school internship program, to connect students to environmental jobs, engage with environmental justice efforts, and plant native plants/trees for the school and community.

Goal 1: Plant native trees in school campus + community

At our Restoration & Beautification Day on January 28, 2023, 40 participants (students, family, and community) planted 3 trees and dozens of native plants in the SLZ High Native Forest! We held a propagation demonstration, and participants left with cuttings of 3 types of native sage plants. We also distributed 16 fruit trees to students and staff for planting at/near their homes.

Druids Club members continue to care for and propagate native plants and trees in the nursery. We have 15-20 trees ready to be planted (buckeye, oak, and toyon) and many more seedlings in their first months of growing. We will work with District Operations (MOT) to plant trees around campus and in new construction areas that do not yet have landscaping.

A total of 23 students have taken part in activities in goal area 1. 22 additional community members, staff, and family also participated in the planting day and tree distribution.

Goal 2: Students explore concepts of CA ecosystem

As a former classroom teacher, the Program Coordinator has created various in-class lessons to support classroom teachers with getting students outside. She has collaborated with Living Earth classes to develop and lead outdoor lessons (focused on the themes of biodiversity sampling and phenology) with a total of 15 classes. In biodiversity sampling, students record data on the number and types of species in various locations on campus and perform a comparative analysis of biodiversity, considering factors such as proximity to pathways, other plants and green spaces, landscaping, and human impact. This provides a foundation from which to assess biodiversity in less impacted nature areas during field trips and in their own personal explorations outside. It also allows students to connect environmental concepts learned in class to the outside environment (food chain/web, keystone species, trophic cascade). During phenology lessons, students take data on the characteristics of a tree every month for the course of the school year. At the end of the year they are able to find patterns in seasonal changes for their individual plant and among all plants in a group or class. They present their findings and connect plant characteristics to evolutionary adaptations, climate change, and ecosystem interactions. • The Program Coordinator is also collaborating with two additional school teachers (who work with 10 total classes) to plan and lead outdoor lessons, including indigenous uses of plants, and plants used for pigments and dyes.

The “Druids Club” after-school internship/training program features volunteer student members and interns working in bi-weekly after-school labs in the native plant forest and nursery. These 20-25 students directly engage with California ecosystems by maintaining native plants that create habitats for organisms and pollinators.

A total of 321 students have taken part in activities in goal area 2.

Goal 3: Students learn about different uses of plants via exploration

Through the Druids club and internship program, 20-25 students learn about plants and their uses during bi-weekly after-school labs. They propagate, plant, and maintain CA native plants in a nursery. Students harvest leaves, berries, bark, and roots for culinary, medicinal, spiritual, ritual, and artisanal uses. We have made elderberry syrup and jam, harvested and dried sage to create smudging bundles, and harvested and dried acorns for processing into flour.

The Program Coordinator held a 5-week summer food garden internship program with 5 paid interns to revitalize and restore a ½ acre food-producing garden on campus. This garden was originally installed by Project Eat, but has been out of use since the COVID-19 shut down. 5 students participated in the job-training program for 10 hours per week for 5 weeks. They learned how to clear out overgrown plants, grass, and weeds, trim trees, seed plants, plant seedlings, set up and check irrigation systems, mulch the garden, and harvest fruit. They learned the relationship between pollinator species, pruning, and mulching for the success of a food-producing garden. We also partook in several design lessons to imagine renewed and additional infrastructure in the garden: benches, walkways, signs, entryways, and trash receptacles that would all elevate the food garden as a place for student engagement, learning, and relaxation. • A total of 35 students have taken part in the activities described here for goal area 3.

Goal 4: Introduce students to environmental jobs (Druids Club internship)

The Druids Club internship program pays 11 student interns a stipend of $1000 (or $500 for a half internship) to work in the nursery and forest, learn landscaping, gardening, design, and collaboration skills. They worked with a native plant landscaper to discuss the process of choosing and placing plants to recreate native ecosystems before the Restoration and Beautification Day (a planting event). Druid members and interns also collaborated with the Trust for Public Land (TPL). TPL facilitated 3 workshops in which Druids designed a demonstration garden for the new Ashland neighborhood park, due to begin construction in 2023. Through this collaboration and workshopping series, 15 students learn the fundamentals of landscape design for community use.

The Druids also worked in partnership with UC Berkeley students from the National Organization for Minority Architecture Students to learn landscape and urban design principles and skills. UC Berkeley NOMAS students facilitated 4 workshops for the Druids to assess the native plant forest, imagine and brainstorm additional infrastructure features, and utilize landscape design tools like rulers, sketches, icons, compasses, and tracing paper to create scale models of the garden with additional infrastructure ideas like seating areas, paths, plaques, gazebos, swing sets, fountains, and trellises. We will continue to collaborate with NOMAS to support the students in developing a design proposal for new infrastructure in the forest that can be presented to the Board for approval.

A total of 20 students have taken part in activities in goal area 4. Note: As mentioned before, 7 students who participated in last year’s programming were chosen for competitive paid internships with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and East Bay Regional Parks District over the summer of 2023.

Goal 5: Empower students to learn about environmental justice

Collaborations with TPL and NOMAS empower Druids students to see themselves as changemakers and agents of environmental justice as they build career skills. Students in the internship and club also learn skills in nursery management, plant propagation, landscaping, and environmental design. We collaborate with the Native American Advisory Council to connect Muwekma Ohlone leaders to the work and support their visions of justice and healing between the school community and the tribe.

Students in Ms. Paskell’s Living Earth classes partook in a naturalist-let workshop on indigenous uses of plants and Ohlone culture. Naturalists provided specimens of plants at various stages of processing, pelts, and products created by indigenous peoples. Students explored characteristics of various plants crucial to Ohlone peoples: cattail, sage, tule, and Indian lettuce. Students can connect the history of settler colonialism to the impact on the environment and social fabric of society through these lessons and workshops. They also learned that Ohlone peoples continue to live and steward land today, and that their contributions to environmental stewardship are a huge factor for why we have intact greenways and access to regional parks like Coyote Hills.

A total of 70 students have taken part in activities in goal area 5 as described here.

Field Trips to Nature Areas

48 students from two 9th grade Living Earth classes attended a field trip to Coyote Hills Regional Park on February 23, 2023 and participated in activities under goal areas 2, 3, and 5. Students completed a 2.5-mile hike during which they searched for evidence of ecosystem interactions (autotrophs, heterotrophs, decomposition). In the afternoon, two naturalists from the regional park service led students in a workshop about indigenous peoples’ use of native plants and Ohlone culture. Naturalists provided specimens of plants at various stages of processing, pelts, and products created by indigenous peoples. Students explored characteristics of various plants crucial to Ohlone peoples: cattail, sage, tule, and Indian lettuce. Students can connect the history of settler colonialism to the impact on the environment and social fabric of society through these lessons and workshops. They also learned that Ohlone peoples continue to live and steward land today and that their contributions to environmental stewardship are a huge factor in why we have intact greenways and access to regional parks like Coyote Hills.

34 students from two 9th-grade Living Earth classes attended a field trip to Ano Nuevo State Park on Thursday, May 4, 2023. We went on a 2-mile round trip walk to the lookouts where the protected populations of Elephant seals beach and reproduce. We spoke with State Park naturalists at the lookout sites and learned about the biological, ecological, and historical importance of elephant seals.

30 students from two 9th-grade Sheltered Living Earth classes attended a field trip to Lake Chabot Regional Park on Thursday, May 2, 2023. We went on a 1-mile walk around the lake, observing native plant species and animals. We went on 3 separate boat trips in groups of 15 with a naturalist skipper who taught students about the history of the lake, the ecological relationships between species, and the conservation efforts undertaken by park staff to mitigate invasive species.

99 of the 9th graders at East Bay Arts attended a field trip to Tilden Regional Park on Thursday, March 30, 2023. We went on a 2-mile hike along very muddy paths (it had rained just two days earlier). The hike took longer than anticipated, and many students bonded over the level of challenge of navigating muddy terrain. Students worked with their English teacher to capture their experience in a haiku poem.

14 students in the Druids environmental club and internship attended a 2-night, 3-day camping trip to Jug Handle State Park on the Mendocino Coast of California Friday, May 12 - Sunday, May 14 of 2023. Students were responsible for most aspects of the camp infrastructure - cooking, cleaning, creating and maintaining the fire, setting up their tents creating a “home base” with their peers, and breaking down the campsite upon departure. They learned skills in self-sufficiency, such as fire tending and cooking, and identification of poisonous plants. We played camp games, shared stories, and on Saturday, took a 6-mile hike along the “ecological staircase” trail which features explanations of different ecological niches along the coastal geography.

List of Formed Partnerships


SLZUSD: Growing Together partners closely with San Lorenzo Unified School District to service students at two co-located school sites: San Lorenzo High School (SLZ) and East Bay Arts High School (EBA). We collaborate directly with the Health and Wellness Coordinator of the District, the Department of Maintenance, Operations and Transportation, as well as school site teachers, principals, students, staff and community members. The Program Coordinator works closely with classroom teachers to achieve goals 2 and 3, coordinating and supporting in-class outdoor experiences for students to explore CA ecosystems and uses of native plants. For activities in goal areas 1, 2, 3, and 5, the Program Coordinator works closely with school staff, district administrators, and community partners to plan events, workshops, and field trips. In addition to the school district, all of the following community-based partners have been very collaborative and supportive of all of our programming goals, and have made significant contributions towards our efforts:

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) delivers workshops to the after-school internship program (Druids Club) on principles of landscape design, park design and garden design. The students are being supported by TPL staff and the program director to develop a design for a demonstration garden, to be installed during the building of a new local park. The TPL partnership specifically supports goals 4 and 5: introducing students to environmental jobs and empowering students to learn about environmental justice.

Native American Advisory Council of SLZUSD / Muwekma Ohlone Tribe: Gloria Gomez of the Ohlone Tribe came and helped with the opening of the restoration and beautification day. She introduced herself and her tribe in Chochenyo and blessed the land and event before we began planting. We are in continued communication with her and her tribe to support justice efforts between the district and the native peoples, as well as incorporate native peoples needs and goals into our events and programming. Collaboration with the Native American Advisory Council specifically supports goals 3 and 4: exploring uses of native plants and empowering students to learn about environmental justice.

NOMAS (National Organization of Minority Architecture Students) at UC Berkeley: College-aged students in NOMAS come to facilitate the Druid students in designing next steps to Forest design (pathways, seating areas, educational signage). The design that the Druids students decide on will be presented to the site admin and board for approval. Collaboration with NOMAS specifically supports goals 4 and 5: introduce students to environmental jobs and empower students to learn about environmental justice.

Pete Villieux, owner of East Bay Wilds, a local native plant landscaping business, has supported the native plant forest for over a decade. With this programming, he offers his time and expertise to the program providing landscaping consulting, plants for purchase, and professional expertise in student workshops.

East Bay Regional Parks and SCA: 7 students who participated in last year’s programming were chosen for competitive paid internships with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and East Bay Regional Parks District over the summer of 2023. This is a direct result of the job training in land stewardship and mentorship students receive in these program areas. The Program Coordinator connected with an SCA Bay Area leader to forward the youth internship opportunities to students and held additional workshops to support students in completing their applications, preparing for interviews, and following up with employers.



The program has been successful for various reasons:

By relying on long-established partnerships between former teachers, alumni, and community members dedicated to reforestation and climate resilience, the Program Coordinator has been able to plan and execute events with extensive support. For example, program alumni connected us to NOMAS at UC Berkeley, TPL reached out through a community partner and retired teacher, and the classroom teachers in close collaboration with the Program Coordinator are her former science colleagues. This greatly facilitated establishing trust and building connections to achieve grant goals.

The Druids Environmental Club was a long-established club at San Lorenzo High School. The native plant forest and nursery are 30 years old, and the retired teacher who began and sustained the program has extensive networks throughout the community with other land stewards, student programs, and champions of reforestation and conservation. This made it straightforward to continue the tried-and-true programming with job-training internships in land stewardship in the native plant forest/nursery. It also provided an ideal foundation from which to grow the program and expand in-class collaborations.

We also note that 7 students who participated in last year’s programming were chosen for competitive paid internships with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and East Bay Regional Parks District over the summer of 2023. This is a direct result of the job training in land-stewardship and mentorship students receive in these program areas.

Challenges and opportunities to improve:

District policy requirements for chaperone ratio make it challenging to plan and execute field trips. To propose a field trip, the district requires a confirmed ratio of 10:1, even if not all students of the class end up attending. With so few substitutes after COVID, I was required to invite only classified support staff as chaperones (librarian, counselors, social workers, book room staff, etc.). Coordinating all of their free schedules to find a day that works with enough chaperones was a challenge. This chaperone ratio and substitute shortage made it prohibitive to take more than 60 students on a single field trip, but we were able to find enough chaperones for the 2-class trips we took to 3 different nature areas. Furthermore, for overnight camping trips, we need to have a male and female chaperone. Finding staff members willing to take a trip away from their families for a weekend proves challenging. The Program Coordinator relies on parents to fill in the chaperone requirement.

The original scope of work was written in a way that focused on serving mainly the students within the Druids club (maximum 25-30 over a given year). After hiring an experienced Coordinator who was a former science teacher at the site, we realized there were programming structures that could be changed to be more impactful for students and the community by expanding access to outdoor lessons, trips, and services to more students. The coordinator was able to leverage existing relationships with teachers and administrators to increase services to students via in-class lessons and field trips for all Living Earth students, not just students within the Druids club. As a result, the program has the potential to achieve higher measurable outcomes than were initially planned for, and we have spoken with the CA State Parks program officer regarding changes we would like to make in the original scope to reflect this potential accurately. At the same time, several of the activities in the community and goal areas are best suited for integration into the after-school job training/internship program rather than the during-school partnerships with classroom teachers, since they focus on deeper and longer-term strategies and initiatives. Because of this, we would like to adjust the number of participating students to reflect the design of that program. We will be submitting the request for these scope changes shortly.

The metrics we are currently using for achieving stated program goals are student and community attendance records at after-school programming and weekend events, as well as student attendance in class during outdoor lessons and on field trips. For goals 2 and 3, we also look at student participation, assessment outcomes, and completion of observation and lab sheets during outdoor lessons to gauge the efficacy of program activities. In our internship program (focusing on goal areas 1, 4, and 5), we plan to hold in-depth one-on-one interviews and focus groups aimed at evaluating the impact of the program on students, including their interest in environmental careers and engagement in community stewardship and environmental justice activities. In addition, we will distribute short surveys to participants of future events and pre and post-surveys for students participating in job-training internships.

Other Program Goals

Service Learning/Career Pathway/Leadership Opportunities

72 Student Opportunities for Garden/Plant Service Learning - Service learning and training for youth to include training around garden maintenance, native plant propagation, identification of native species and knowledge of their cultural requirements, Native American uses of native plants, sheet mulching and conversion of lawns to native gardens.

34 Student Internships Opportunities - Leadership opportunities for youth include teaching peers about the importance of environmental work and native plant preservation, working with 4th grade students from neighboring sister schools and helping to facilitate community events to allow opportunity for multigeneration efforts in native plant garden/forest. Students will receive a stipend for their work.

At least 1 Resident Internship Coordinator – Over the four years of the program, the coordinator will oversee the student internship program and assist with other aspects of the program as needed.

12 BAWT Internships – High school aged students and recent alumni of OUSD will intern at Bay Area Wilderness Training.

6 Center Internships – High school aged students and recent alumni of OUSD will intern at The Center.


East Bay Regional Parks

East Bay Municipal Utility District

Oro Loma Sanitary District

California Native Plant Society, East Bay Chapter


The Druids club will continue after the performance period.

Annual Reports Start in December 2023!

Grantee will report the number of children served, partnership accomplishments and lessons learned, how educational goals were achieved, and unforeseen challenges and recommended solutions, with the goal of inspiring and building capacity for future outdoor program providers throughout California.