7th-Grade Monterey Trip: Invasive Species, Flora and Fauna, Biodiversity and Classic TEA Adventure

"There were plenty of challenges, successes, and silly moments and along the way we found opportunities to embrace ALL of TEA’s character traits."

Words and photos by the trip leaders: Liz, Anna, Grace and Liz!

Dear 7th-Grade Parents,

We just wanted to fill you in on our awesome trip to Monterey (just In case your children haven’t told you all about it!) There were plenty of challenges, successes, and silly moments and along the way we found opportunities to embrace ALL of TEA’s character traits (collaboration, empathy, perseverance, responsibility, stewardship, advocacy, craftsmanship, creativity, and craftsmanship!), learn about invasive species, observe flora and fauna, collect some biodiversity data, and spend some quality time together!

Day one consisted of packing and driving down to sunset state beach, setting up camp and enjoying a nice “family” dinner to set the tone for the coming days.

Day two we were up before sunrise and watched the sun come up over the hills to the west as we dove to Pinnacles National park. Pinnacles became a national park in 2013 and is home to unique geology and 29 endangered, threatened, and endemic species. While we didn’t get to see all of these, a few of us did get a really good look at a Condor flying over us! We had a great day, and the weather was perfect. We got super lucky and the caves were open which made for the perfect opportunity to take the students in two very different geological directions. We split into two groups and alternated climbing and hiking through the caves. It was hard to say which was better and mental challenges were overcome on both sides of the adventure. The middle of the day brought a wonderful opportunity to sit quietly and record observations of the greater landscape as well as the smaller details of the species that called this place home. We returned safely to camp after a long 12 hour adventure with tired but happy students.

Day three permitted us to sleep in till a normal hour, and we set off to explore Natural Bridges State Park at low tide. We found some beautiful tide pools up on the rocks that proved to be perfect places to collect data on tide pool inhabitants, spot a whale and feel the fresh spray of the sea. We celebrated the hump day of our trip with pizza in Santa Cruz before returning to camp to cook wings and have family dinner.

Day 4 brought another early morning with a beautiful 2 hour paddle on Elkhorn Slough. We ate Pickle Weed, felt kelp, met a few crabs, saw harbor seals and watched baby sea otters play with their mothers. The weather was just cool enough, foggy enough and windy enough to add a little extra adventure to our short paddle.

The afternoon brought a visit to the Elkhorn Slough Nature preserve where they are working hard to restore the natural oak forest and bluff ecosystem. Removing invasive species is a huge part of restoring ecosystems, as these species not only spread quickly but also outcompete all of the native species. The students got direct experience on the impact a few extra can hands can have on removing invasive plants, and we talked about how cool it would be to come back in 5-10 years to see the ecosystem restored where we were working. It was a long day, but the spaghetti and meatballs closed it out nicely.

Day 5 continued the trend of early morning awakening, and we arose before the sun and were packed up, in the car, and on the road home at 7 am on the dot!!!

Things we were most impressed by: The efficiency your children have when they wake up before the sun. The enthusiasm they have for eachother, their positive attitudes as we embraced the adventures we confronted, and their amazing love of good food, cooking and cleaning. What a great group of kids to spend 5 days by the sea with! Don’t forget to check out the photos uploaded below for more enjoyment.

What a great trip!
Liz, Anna, Grace and Liz