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Students paddle their open-deck kayaks to Marshall Beach. Photo by Courtney Gomola

PCS 10th-graders explore Tomales Bay

By Rachel Goings

[email protected]

The highschoolers set up camp on the shore of Marshall Beach before they set out on a night paddle to find bioluminescence on the calm waters in Tomales Bay, Calif. during their field trip in October. Two groups of 10th-graders from Plumas Charter School spent three days and two nights exploring, learning and developing new outdoor skills in the coastal area.

PCS Career and Technical Education (CTE) Coordinator, Courtney Gomola planned and led the back-to-back trips — first for students from Quincy, then for students from Indian Valley Academy. “The trips were an opportunity for the 10th-graders to get out to the coast to learn a little bit about the environment and culture, as well as develop new outdoor recreation skills related to boatpacking,” she said.

Each group had slightly different experiences due to weather changes from one week to the next. The Quincy group was able to do some tidepooling at the ocean on their first day. They found hermit crabs, anemones and even pieces of agate. The IVA students spent their first afternoon with Alicia Retes. Retes is the former education director for the Museum of American Indian in Novato, California and expert on Miwok culture. She taught the group traditional games, wild medicinal and edible plants, and the ways the Miwok interacted with and supported their surrounding landscapes.

After a campout under a canopy of redwoods, both groups paddled open-deck kayaks loaded with gear to Marshall Beach where they would camp for the second night. On shore, science teacher Ms. Jess led the students in an ecosystem exploration activity. They searched out microfauna in the bay and on shore with their field microscopes.

Kili’a Kahoohanohano from Feather River College’s Outdoor Recreation Leadership program led students in natural history activities and taught them about some of her favorite things about the place where she grew up.

Calm, dark skies allowed the Quincy group to head out on a night paddle to observe bioluminescence in the salty waters of Tomales Bay. The wind kept the Taylorsville crew off of the water at night, but pushed them to a sunset hike up the ridgeline where they could watch as the last light slipped into the Pacific Ocean and lit up the sky above them.

Both groups rose early to pack their gear back into their boats. As they paddled the miles back to the starting point, they witnessed otters munching away, reclined on their backs in the water, pelicans diving for fish, bat rays cruising the water and a few adventurous students were able to reach out and touch the jellyfish floating by.

The trip came to an end after they hauled kayaks and paddles up to the shore of Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales Bay State Park and thanked the folks at Blue Waters Kayaking for renting out their gear. The teams loaded their dry bags onto the top of the PCS adventure van and made their way back to their mountain home.

The Tomales Bay adventure is one of the experiences funded by the Outdoor Equity Grants Program, created through AB 209 and administered by California State Parks Office of Grants and Local Services. PCS was awarded $447,000 last spring. The program’s goal is to increase the ability of residents in underserved communities to participate in outdoor experiences at state parks and other public lands.

Plumas Charter School operates learning centers in Quincy, Taylorsville and Chester. To learn more, visit www.plumascharterschool.org.

Rachel Goings is the public relations specialist for Plumas Charter School

The Quincy 10th-graders explore the beach. Photo by Courtney Gomola
The Quincy students set up camp for the night. Photo by Courtney Gomola
IVA students learn from Alicia Retes, former education director for the Museum of American Indian in Novato, California. Photo by Courtney Gomola
IVA 10th-graders set off on their kayak adventure. Photo by Jess DeVan

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