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SFUSD students at Camp Mather in 2016

Introducing Nature to 9th-Grade Students at Camp Mather


As the school year ended, the freshmen class at John O'Connell High School nervously anticipated the annual, ninth-grade trip to Camp Mather. Most of the students had never been to the city-owned camp in Yosemite National Park near the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

But they’d heard from students about past trips. Would they see bears? Would the mosquitoes be unbearable? Would they miss their cell phones each passing hour?

For the third year, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), the Department of Recreation and Parks and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) partnered to welcome the first group of SFUSD students for the summer to Camp Mather.

The trip is an opportunity to introduce and encourage the city’s youth to access public lands and resources, says the SFPUC. Also, these trips create a greater sense of community. 

Forty-eight students and school and SFPUC staff traveled to Camp Mather during the last three days of the school year, discovering many outdoor activities for the first time.

SFUSD students climbing at Camp Mather.On the first day, the group made a short stop at Moccasin Powerhouse to learn about the Hetch Hetchy Water and Power System. On the second day, the group climbed higher than they thought they could on the ropes course and pushed themselves on the trail around Hetch Hetchy. In the afternoons, students paddle boarded and swam in the pool and lake.

The group also learned how they could get involved in working in the upcountry wilderness. Camp Mather's Director Mike Bross encouraged students to apply to work in the recreational area of Camp Mather. The SFPUC watershed keepers also talked with students about opportunities to operate and manage the water system.

To end the trip, the students showed off their unique skills during a talent show. And some students even asked, “Can we stay one more day?"