Fleet Feet understands the profound impact of spending time outdoors. Whether you’re running through your neighborhood, climbing El Capitan, or sitting on your balcony watching the stars, being outside ignites discovery and inspires wonder.
The sole beneficiary for the Yosemite Challenge is NatureBridge, an overnight, environmental science program that takes youth out of the classroom and into the National Parks. For 50 years, NatureBridge has been bringing students from around the country to national parks to engage in scientific principles firsthand, explore ecological concepts and think critically, all while discovering the joy of the outdoors. NatureBridge’s continued commitment to equity and inclusion has helped more than 1.5 million students of all backgrounds to take part in its environmental science programs and experience the wonder of nature.
In 1971, a high school teacher named Don Rees assembled a group of 50 high school students in Yosemite for a week-long adventure. That trip inspired the founding of NatureBridge, formerly Yosemite Institute.
Over 30% of nonprofit organizations fail to exist within 10 years of their founding. They are derailed by leadership issues, strategic misfires, and crises outside their control. To successfully bring environmental education to students for 50 years, NatureBridge had to withstand its own tribulations: sudden national park closures from government shutdowns, wildfires, and most recently of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and its numerous impacts.
At every challenging moment, NatureBridge has met the moment, whether it was delivering virtual programs during quarantine or keeping students safe during a hantavirus outbreak in Yosemite. NatureBridge continues to expand and grow from its humble beginnings as a national park field trip, and while the fact that the organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary is remarkable, it is the next 50 years that remain NatureBridge’s true focus.
ABOUT NATUREBRIDGE PROGRAMS
NatureBridge provides environmental science programs in the world’s best classrooms—our national parks. Pre-pandemic, more than 700 schools and 35,000 students visited its four national park locations each year (Yosemite, Golden Gate, Olympic and Prince William). In 50 years of teaching and inspiring students, NatureBridge has provided life-changing experiences for more than 1.5 million participants and is a national leader in the field of environmental education.
In addition to providing environmental science programs, each campus hosts a number of programs for students from kindergarten through 12th grade with different focuses, including leadership development, personal growth and connecting with family. A few include: Coastal Camp, a summer day camp in Golden Gate; summer backpacking trips through Yosemite and Olympic’s backcountry; and our Educator Development Program, a multi-week, paid program for educators seeking to increase their experience with outdoor teaching and risk management in Prince William Forest. In 2020, NatureBridge launched their Distance Learning programming to accommodate the growing demand for engaging, virtual education.
To learn more about all of NatureBridge’s programs, click here.