Four Day Trip to Yosemite National Park
by Jane Califf
Irene Creps is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever known. Now retired, she gave her all to give students the widest possible exposure to nature, many of whom had never been outside of San Francisco.
At George Washington High School, she formed an Outdoor Club that she took on trips to national parks such as Muir Woods featuring ancient redwood trees; wildlife preserves including the Sacramento Wildlife Preserve, and coastal California such as Point Reyes National Sea Shore. She undertook these excursions often at her own expense since many of the students were low-income.
Every year she took approximately 30 Outdoor Club members, with the help of four other teachers who acted as chaperones and guides, to spectacular Yosemite National Park for four days - from Thursday through Sunday. (A substitute was hired to cover her classes. The school was very supportive in giving students this nature study trip.
Students raised some of the money for this trip by selling food, but Ms. Creps covered most of the costs. Students were on their best behavior because they knew that if they transgressed, they would be sent home. These are the benefits that she believes made the time and the money worthwhile:
Traveling by Amtrack train which many had never taken before, from San Francisco to Merced, and then a bus up the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Yosemite Valley;
living in tent cabins for the first time;
hearing talks by forest rangers on the history of the amazing geological formations, plants and animals;
hiking through the forest identifying flowers, plants and trees; gazing at waterfalls and scenic views;
bringing art materials along to draw what they see;
going out at night and looking at the stars;
gaining more respect for Native Americans by visiting a museum showing their important contributions to our country and the world;
learning not to be afraid of the outdoors; seeing coyotes, deer, raccoons and even bears on occasion;
learning to live without any electronic devices.
Ms. Creps says that these activities activated all of the students’ five senses and gave them a sense of transcendence beyond their limited life experiences. She summarizes the benefits of such an outing as this one by quoting John Muir (1838 - 1914), the great naturalist and conservationist:
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."
"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."