Science and Service: Ninth Grade Students’ Yosemite Learning Journey

The deep valleys, grand meadows and magnificent sequoia forests of Yosemite National Park are the setting this week for a five-day learning journey focused on environmental science for Mount Madonna School (MMS) ninth grade students. This hands-on study complements the school’s year-long biology curriculum and also includes opportunities for service.

“Students are exploring the concepts learned in biology class – ecology, environmental biology, animal and plant anatomy and physiology – in one of the most ecologically diverse and environmentally beautiful locations in the world,” commented teacher Nicole Silva Culbertson. “Students are studying the flora and fauna of Yosemite, bringing to life the biological concepts they have studied in the classroom. During the week, the students will work with their teachers, rangers, hike, possibly go swimming and attend programs geared towards science.”

MMS offers an innovative approach to learning that integrates academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Learning journeys and service to society are cornerstones of the school’s transformational educational program, which builds character by reframing how students understand themselves in the world.

“The lessons and experiences gleaned from students immersing themselves and forming connections to the natural world spark self-discovery through introspection and create a sense of awe about the fragility and strength of nature,” said Head of School Ann Goewert. “Experiences such as the Yosemite Learning Journey inspire students to become conscientious and knowledgeable stewards of Earth.”

Mount Madonna School partners with Yosemite’s NatureBridge environmental science program, as their staff experts have access to all the resources, information, stories and history Yosemite has to offer.

“NatureBridge has scientists and environmentalists with a passion and enthusiasm about Yosemite that is infectious,” said Silva Culbertson. “Our students gain a tremendous amount of knowledge from naturalists and experts in their field, including the opportunity to see educators and scientists in different jobs other than a classroom setting.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 380 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The program, accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.