Exploring the natural world,
discovering environmental stewardship
Each year more than 1,600 youth ages 6 to 18 encounter wildlife, tide pools, native plants, and star-filled skies during overnight trips based at our Marin Headlands, Point Reyes, and Point Montara Lighthouse hostels. Set in State and National Parks on the California coast, these hostels provide immediate access to diverse habitats and unique opportunities for hands-on learning.
By engaging youth in an exploration of our natural environments, each hostel location becomes an expansive classroom, where hiking trails lead to the discovery of ecological concepts, sensory awareness, and a more vibrant sense of place and of self.
“The Montara overnight is the most important trip of the year. Most of the children have never been away from home overnight. They are stunned, amazed, flabbergasted, and overjoyed. They are simply different kids when they return: more worldly, more understanding, more helpful, more curious, and they generally carry a magical smile for a long time. A lifetime.”
--4th grade teacher, Marshall Elementary School, San Francisco
Outdoor Hostel Adventures incorporate experiential curricula that challenge each individual to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste the wonders of the natural world. Working individually and as members of a team, students actively express their newfound appreciation for the environment. Newly empowered, participants leave with a spirit of environmental stewardship to share with their communities back home.
More than 20,000 youth have participated in outdoor and environmental experiences through the Hostel Adventure Program since it was established in 1986.
"Imagine the joy in my heart as I listened to my students share with each other what they had learned about various plants; watched them rush to the sea, play tag with the waves and fall in love with the ocean; and saw how their hearts and minds were touched by all that they saw and did in ways that no amount of time in a classroom can produce."
--4th grade teacher, Lafayette School, San Francisco
Goals and Objectives
Outdoor Hostel Adventures emphasize three critical developmental areas:
1. Environmental education
Through investigation of natural habitats, hands-on activities, and discussion, youth develop:
- An appreciation of and respect for nature
- An understanding of the principles of ecology and conservation
- An awareness of our impact and dependence on the environment
2. Interpersonal skills development
Outdoor Hostel Adventure participants gain greater confidence, self-awareness, and respect for their community of peers and adults through:
- Problem-solving initiatives
- Trust-building exercises
- Cooperative games
3. Intercultural understanding
The community of the hostel is transformative for young people. Students not only work together to prepare meals in the hostel kitchen and complete simple morning chores, they also learn about other countries by interacting with international travelers.
For example, when an African American student from Horace Mann Middle School interviewed a Czech man with limited English skills during a stay at the Marin Headlands Hostel, they found common ground through simple conversation:
- What do you like to do for fun?
- Do you like pizza?
- Do you like music?