In a time boasting conveniences in the form of microwave ovens and cars, it is hard to imagine that over 100 years ago, activities such as cooking on a wood-burning stove and riding on a horse-drawn stage were central to everyday life.
Through the Environmental Living Program at Yosemite National Park, students in Marlene Bergstrom’s fourth grade class at Medeiros Elementary School will not only be able to imagine what it was like, but they will also experience it firsthand at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center.
During their overnight visit, students will commit to living exactly like people did in Yosemite over 100 years ago. According to Bergstrom, students will dress in time period clothing and take on the persona of someone who was instrumental in the development of Yosemite as a National Park.
Students will also delve into various stations, in which they will learn about the time period by experiencing a horse-drawn stage ride, cooking on a wood-burning stove, chopping wood with an ax, and making a dinner triangle in the forge at blacksmithing. They will also be given an opportunity to visit bakeries, saloons, and a general store.
Bergstrom reports that students will also engage in “Role Task,” which she refers to as the heart of the program.
“The Role Task is where the students complete a project that simulates what their historical character did in Yosemite’s past,” said Bergstrom. “The main purpose of this activity is to explore the history of land management in Yosemite. Through these activities, the students develop a better understanding of how daily life affected the decisions made by their historical character.”
To conclude the evening, students will enjoy square dancing and sleep in tents. The next day, after they present their “Role Task” projects, the class will tour Yosemite Valley and hike to the top of Vernal Falls.
“The program is a life changing and forever a memorable experience,” said Bergstrom. “Through their participation in the program, they recognize the process of how to manage a wild landscape as similar to the development of a national park as difficult, and required compromises—and that these same struggles still continue over 100 years later.”
Bergstrom’s class is just one of 20 schools statewide chosen to take a step back in time through this program and students are not taking the honor lightly.
According to Bergstrom, the class has been busy hosting numerous fundraisers to finance the trip, including a jog-a-thon, two dinner fundraisers, flower and refreshment sales during the school’s talent show, a California Fact-a-Thon, and a fundraiser at Chili’s Restaurant.
Bergstrom’s class has raised little more than $3,700 for the trip. To reach the ultimate goal of $6,000, Bergstrom and her class are accepting donations through their GoFundMe account at gofundme.com/MissBsYosemite.
“Investing in the education and lives of kids is priceless,” said Bergstrom. “The experience that my class is able to have cannot be matched in the four walls of my classroom.”
“Students begin to realize that National Parks belong to everyone and it is their responsibility to take care of them and make sure that they remain the same for future generations,” Bergstrom continued.
Bergstrom’s class will not be the only one representing Turlock schools as students in Kevin Crivelli’s Yosemite Club at Sacred Heart Catholic School have also been selected as one of 20 student groups throughout the state to jump on the figurative horse-drawn wagon this year.
“It is quite an honor to be selected,” said Crivelli. “Marlene and I have worked very hard and have spent countless hours to make our programs the best they can be and giving the kids and parents the best possible experience.”
According to Crivelli, since the Yosemite Club is voluntary for his students, each student has paid $100 to go—a fee which covers food, supplies, campsites, and park fees for the three-day expedition.
“I am fortunate to have former parents and former participants who donate time and money to help me run this program and make sure every student who wants to go gets a chance,” said Crivelli. “All money is spent on the kids.”
After the trip, Crivelli’s students will also be trekking to the top of Vernal Falls along with Bergstrom’s class, but they will be going the extra mile to help out a family in need.
“Over the past three years, the Sacred Heart Yosemite Club has turned its Vernal Falls hike into a way to give back to our community,” said Crivelli. “In that time, we have raised close to $10,000 for charities or families in need.”
“This year we will be hiking for one of our own,” continued Crivelli.
Crivelli reports that students this year will be raising money for the Coelho family, who has been an active part and great supporters of the Yosemite Program at Sacred Heart for the past four years.
In addition to the family’s two boys, Owen and Holden, being members of the Yosemite Club, parents Staci and Loren Coelho have always been parent helpers.
“In January, we lost Loren in a farm accident,” said Crivelli. “Loren was an incredible man, always helping others without question, never asking what was in it for him. It didn’t matter if you were family, friend or stranger, Loren always offered his help.”
To reach their fundraising goal of $3,000, Crivelli reports that kids will ask friends, family members, and neighbors for donations, an activity he reports as similar to a jog-a-thon.
“This program aims to help prepare students for the important role they will play,” said Crivelli. “In the end, it gives students a sense of pride and accomplishment, as well as a vested interest in protection of Yosemite National Park. It is a wonderful opportunity for the kids and adults and a chance to spend time in one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
Both classes are scheduled to depart for Yosemite National Park on May 4.