Curriculum Overview

Each year more than 1,600 adults and youth encounter wildlife, tide pools, native plants, and star-filled skies during overnight trips based at our HI Marin Headlands, HI Point Reyes, and HI 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 education.

By engaging participants 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. Group leaders and trip organizers can choose from several customizable programs to best fit their half day, full day, or evening schedules. 

 pp lighthouse sunset

Humans & the Environment

OVERVIEW: Participants will learn about the natural and human history relative to their specific hostel location and converse about the evolving relationship between the interconnected ecosystems around them. Discussions and activities will also include fire ecology, energy sources, product lifecycles, and environmental sustainability.  

MODULES & TOPICS: Human Development, Sustainability, Archaeology, Climate Change, Leave No Trace, 10 Essentials, Fire Ecology, Energy Types, Product Lifestyle Assessment, Weather etc. 

Land, Plants, & Animals

OVERVIEW: Participants will be led on a guided plant walk and (hopefully!) witness wildlife in their native environment.  They will discuss the role and connections between plants and animals in an ecosystem by highlighting topics such as food webs, carrying capacity, seed dispersal, and ecological symbiosis.  

MODULES & TOPICS: Flora & Fauna, Ecological Symbiosis, Seed Dispersal, Food Webs, Ecosystems, Adaptations, Carrying Capacity, Limiting Factors, Succession, Animal Classification, Birding etc.  

Coastal Marine Ecology

OVERVIEW: With the idealistic location of our coastal HI USA hostels, participants will be introduced to marine and coastal environments, tide-pools, ocean literacy and to the complex adaptations and interconnections of the flora and fauna that make up these ecosystems.

MODULES & TOPICS: Water Cycle, Tide-pools, Adaptations, Ocean Literacy, Marine Mammals, Animal Classification, etc.

Guided Night Hike

OVERVIEW: Departing at sunset, participants are led on a dusk-filled night hike with activities aimed at exploring nocturnal animals, planets and stars.  With outdoor activities increasing in popularity, it is important for people of all ages to understand how to interact with nature safely, comfortably, and with minimal environmental impact.  Participants will gain confidence in themselves and their abilities to make smart, informed decisions while in the natural environment.

MODULES & TOPICS: Nocturnal Animals, Sensory Awareness, Space Sun, Moon, Stars, Planets, Triboluminescence, Constellations, etc.

    sea creature tidepooling pigeon point lighthouse   chipmunk hi point reyes hostel   frog hi pigeon point lighthouse hostel  


As a result of the OHA program, participants will have the ability to:

Global Learning
  • Evaluate the global impact of one’s own and others' specific local actions on the natural and human world. 
  • Identify and explain multiple perspectives (such as cultural, disciplinary, and ethical) when exploring subjects within natural and human systems.
  • Analyze substantial connections between the worldviews, power structures, and experiences of multiple cultures historically or in contemporary contexts, incorporating respectful interactions with other cultures. 
  • Analyze the ethical, social, and environmental consequences of global systems and identify a range of actions informed by one’s sense of personal and civic responsibility.
  • Analyze major elements of global systems, including their historic and contemporary interconnections and the differential effects of human organizations and actions, to pose elementary solutions to complex problems in the human and natural world. 
  • Plan and evaluate more complex solutions to global challenges that are appropriate to their contexts using multiple disciplinary perspectives (such as cultural, historical, and scientific). 
Intercultural Knowledge and Competence
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of elements important to members of another culture in relation to its history, values, politics, communication styles, economy, or beliefs and practices.
  • Ask simple or surface questions about other cultures.  
Civic Engagement
  • Communicate in civic context, showing ability to do more than one of the following: express, listen, and adapt ideas and messages based on others’ perspectives.  
  • Demonstrate experience identifying intentional ways to participate in civic contexts and structures. 

(courtesy of the Association of American Colleges and Universities Value Rubrics) 


  • Teambuilding: By developing communication and leadership, participants foster teamwork and self-confidence through problem-solving initiatives, trust-building exercises and cooperative initiatives.      
  • Sensory Awareness: Participants use their senses to explore and appreciate the beauty of nature through sight, sound, feel, and smell.   
  • Service Learning: Intentional process and reflection are used to enrich the learning experience by emphasizing civic responsibility and the strengthening of communities. 
  • Compromise: Participants work together through planned activities aimed at creating a balance between two seemingly opposing entities.  
  • Consensus Building: Complex issues are addressed through collaborative problem solving.  
  • Constructive Feedback: By building things up and not breaking things down, participants learn through positive response. 
  • Conflict Resolution: Peaceful solution to designed disagreement is found through neutral mediation. 
  • Crisis Intervention: Participants learn how to restore equilibrium and minimize potential burden when faced with difficult scenarios.