By Jim Brescia
The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education operates the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor Educational Campus that is tucked away in the hills above San Luis Obispo. These 250 protected acres include a nature preserve, a school campus, a one-room schoolhouse, incredible learning resources, and a regional education conference center. The school provides hands-on learning opportunities for students studying science and ecology in a natural setting. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education has been providing outdoor education to the community for over 40 years. Nearly 300,000 students and 10,000 adults have enjoyed and benefited from the programs and facilities which were previously part of Camp San Luis Obispo.
The Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School once again offered Summer Outdoor Adventures for Kids (SOAK) Camp this year. Nestled between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay off of Highway 1, the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School preserve affords some beautiful hiking trails along Pennington Creek, an oak woodland forest, a pond, classrooms, and a newly renovated amphitheater courtesy of local Rotary clubs. Our outdoor education programs bring North County students closer to nature while providing fun and adventure. When students participate in outdoor education, their understanding of the environment and human communities grow. Stronger environmental attitudes, civic responsibility, and community participation strengthen through outdoor education. These types of schools are one tool in building a solid foundation of stewardship within the next generation.
Outdoor education can connect families and the greater community with our schools. Many times when classrooms are outdoors an entry point for involvement in education emergers. The first time my father became more involved with my schooling was in the late 1960s on an outdoor education field trip. I have many people throughout the county stop me to relay stories about chaperoning for a field trip. Some of the stories have included recollections about sleeping at Rancho El Chorro as a youth. I commend our local, state, and national Rotary Clubs for their dedication to our community, our youth, and society.
This summer I was able to join the Cayucos Rotary Club along with other Central Coast Rotary Clubs and participate as a Paso Robles Delegate at the Rotary International Conference in Toronto, Canada. The Cayucos Club hosted a booth in support of the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education Outdoor Education Campus, Rancho El Chorro. Over 24,000 Rotarians from more than 200 counties joined forces in Canada to promote the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self.” It is an honor to have multiple Rotary clubs from San Luis Obispo County, the greater Rotary district (including adjacent counties), clubs from Oregon, Mexico, Canada, Brasil, Burundi, and Myanmar supporting the educational programs offer at Rancho El Chorro. I am proud to serve as your county superintendent of schools, employ a talented workforce, and work with community-minded individuals in our local Rotary Clubs. I invite the entire community to tour Rancho El Chorro and learn about this gem right here in our backyard promoting environmental education, stewardship, peace mediation, and leadership.
“Now I see the secret of making the best persons; it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
~Walt Whitman~