Follow EcoPress on Twitter

“Like” NREL EcoPress

August, 2012- Environmental education from the Pacific Crest Trail

By EcoPress Staff

Ecology learned firsthand in nature stays with us in a meaningful way, and the Pacific Crest Trail is an ideal place for such learning.  The 2,650 mile trail stretches from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, through California, Oregon, and Washington, and covers deserts, active volcanoes, rain forests, and more.  The trail might be the ultimate way to learn the ecology of the West Coast, and the ideal way to discover a deep connection with nature.  Sadly, the trail is out of reach for most school kids across the country, partly because most of them can’t take 5 straight months off from school to go hiking! But now kids anywhere can follow Brooke Osborne, a recent MS graduate of NREL, and Gavin Morris, an artist and videographer based in Fort Collins, CO, on their epic journey to complete the Pacific Crest Trail, through their website Wild Ones. EcoPress is cheering them on.  Osborne writes:

Welcome to “Wild Ones”!

 Wild Ones is an education project designed to connect elementary students with environmental science and promote critical thinking from wild perspectives – starting with the 2, 663-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

 During a through-hike of the PCT, Brooke Osborne and Gavin Morris will teach environmental science and share their trail experiences with 4th grade students. Heidi Sontag, a USGS-appointed intern, will work from Fort Collins to relay correspondence with the hikers along the trail, compile supporting educational materials and edit video to create blog entries each week.

 The goal of this program is to encourage enthusiasm for and curiosity about the great diversity of landscapes and wildlife spanning the western US, as well as outdoor recreation and stewardship. Students will learn to “think like a scientist” by discussing questions that the hikers and other experts pose, and have their own questions about environmental science and trail life answered.

 To achieve this our team is collaborating with local 4th grade educator Katie Guillbert and professional videographer Nathaniel Robinson to create an interactive multi-media blog that classrooms across the country can access. The entries you will find here are intended for that purpose.

 Although the content of these posts is designed to supplement 4th grade science education please take a look. We welcome feedback and suggestions for improving this model of interactive education.  Happy Trails!

Gavin Morris:  Gavin is an artist/videographer, based in Fort Collins, CO. He is currently wrapping up production on films that spotlight water and ocean issues around the world. His video blogs have appeared on websites for National Geographic and Sylvia Earle. He enjoys any excuse to hike and explore new surroundings.

Brooke Osborne: Brooke earned her MS in Alpine Ecosystem Ecology from the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory with Dr. Jill Baron for her work in the Loch Vale Watershed . Her environmental education experience ranges from singing songs about soil to 2nd graders to teaching principles of backpacking and wilderness stewardship at the college level. She and co-producer Gavin Morris met during a 2009 through-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Heidi Sontag: Heidi earned her AS in General Science from Laramie Country Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and will graduate from CSU with a BS in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology in May 2013. She has environmental education experience as a Pulliam Scholar, teaching 5th graders in the field at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area, and mentoring a high-school student through a science project as a part of the EnvironMentors Program ( She is also a USGS Intern as a part of the “Wild Ones” Project.