More than 250 local residents attended “Wake Up to Nature” May 6, Environmental Volunteers’ annual fundraising breakfast.
The nonprofit organization shared its mission with guests: to promote understanding of and responsibility for the environment through hands-on science and nature education via classroom-based programs, summer camps and its EcoCenter in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.
According to Environmental Volunteers representatives, only 20 percent of Bay Area elementary school teachers teach more than one hour per week of science. The majority of students living in the heart of Silicon Valley and the biotech industry, they claim, are missing out on a comprehensive science education. As a result, California students rank in the bottom five among states on national science tests. Environmental Volunteers has devoted nearly 40 years to closing the gap.
The organization has more than 100 volunteer docents, who aim to teach, inspire and influence the lives of an estimated 10,000 students each year.
During the school year, volunteers set up learning stations in local classrooms. They may bring buckets of Bay mud to teach about the food chain, discuss conscientious use of water or lead one of the 150 field trips.
“Our volunteers open minds and they open doors, and it’s all because they opened their hearts to making a difference in a child’s life,” said Enironmental Volunteers Executive Director Allan Berkowitz.
Berkowitz credited his ninth-grade teacher with changing his world by showing him how he and fellow students could effect change and make a difference in matters relating to the environment.
Many Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents support Environmental Volunteers through donations of time and money, including Ann Rando and Jan and Bob Fenwick. The main hall of the organization’s EcoCenter is named Fenwick Hall.
Youth volunteer Charin Park; Sarah Portnov, a teacher at East Palo Alto Charter School; and Craig Goldman, superintendent of the Mountain View-Whisman School District, shared firsthand accounts of how Environmental Volunteers has transformed the lives of students by teaching them that each one could make a difference in the world.
Upcoming activities at Environmental Volunteers include the Junior Naturalist Program, an afterschool club for third- through fifth-graders; Girls in Science; the Youth Leadership Board; developing a Spanish-language version of the Bay Tour smartphone app; and installing a research-grade weather station at the EcoCenter.
The EcoCenter, located at 2560 Embarcadero Road, serves as headquarters for Environmental Volunteers and is open to the public as a nature center. The EcoCenter is open 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.