Spending four days in the forest isn't on most high schools' curriculums, but for Oakland International High School it's just another way to advance an unconventional student body.
Two teachers, Geoffrey Gailey and Laura Stuck, led a class of 25 students, ranging from 14 to 18 years old, on a four-day hike through Point Reyes as part of an elective course meant to foster the students' in-class knowledge in a real-world environment.
As biology and chemistry teachers, Gailey and Stuck went into the trip hoping to advance the students' science and math skills with map reading and understanding the chemical reactions behind their campfires.
But the students also walked away with a deeper insight about themselves and how they interact with each other, the teachers said.
"When teenagers disagree, that can be a very ugly thing, and when teenagers who don't speak the same language disagree, that can lead to fights," Gailey said, about arguments that arose on the trip. "It was really good to see them conversing in English something that they need to communicate clearly about instead of getting angry or reacting because they were tired."
Oakland International serves new immigrants and refugees, primarily from Latin American and Asian nations, and English is a second language for most of its students. For Gailey, it was a breakthrough to see students overcome the language barrier to discuss whether they wanted to play soccer on the
Exhausted after spending four days last week on their feet and away from home, the students did not immediately grasp the value the trip had on their education and interactions.
"It was crazy," said Sabas Vargas, 18, a senior. "It was super crazy, super hot and a bunch of mosquitoes. We slept outside. That was cold. Crazy!"
The students were complaining about sore legs from their 20-mile walk and mosquito bites the next day in class, but they still managed to fondly recall their trip.
"We're walking here. We were able to get to all of these places and see how beautiful they are," said one student as he flipped through a photo slideshow of him and his classmates standing with 30-pound backpacks strapped to their backs. The class was putting together presentations of the trip's highlights to show how far the class has advanced.
This was the first class of its kind at the school, and even though it lasted only three weeks in the post-session, Gailey notes that there were months of grant writing and wilderness survival classes for him and Stuck before the course began.
The students had to undergo their own preparations for the trip, including mini hikes and learning how much food and clothes they needed to carry to survive.
Despite the initial hesitation from a few of the parents and students, everyone made it back to school and Gailey is hoping to use this first class as reason to continue the program.
"It was really good for them to have this restorative, unstructured time where they could just talk and get closer," he said.
But for the time being, his students just want some time off.
"I would (go again), but not in the next three months, though," Vargas said. "I need a break."