Holiday Spirit

Fourth-grade students at Mariano Castro Elementary School in Mountain View plot earthquakes that have occurred along the San Andreas Fault during a lesson led by the nonprofit Environmental Volunteers, a Holiday Fund grant recipient. Photo by Elena Kadvany.

Posted November 23, 2018

Nurturing the next generation of stewards
Environmental Volunteers teaches kids, adults to see a larger world

by Elena Kadvany

"Have you ever felt an earthquake?" asked Environmental Volunteers team coordinator Nancy Mayo of energetic fourth-graders sitting cross-legged Monday in a classroom at Castro Elementary School in Mountain View.

Several hands shot up in affirmation as students recalled the experience.

"It felt intense," one girl said. "I actually went under my bed."

Several other enthusiastic comments followed during a classroom lesson on earthquakes, the follow-up to a field trip the students recently took to learn about tectonic plates and quakes at Los Trancos Preserve near Los Altos Hills.

Both lesson and field trip were organized by Environmental Volunteers, a Palo Alto nonprofit that works to level the playing field for thousands of low-income elementary students each year — most of whom otherwise would only receive an hour of science instruction each week — by providing hands-on, interactive science education in local school districts, said Executive Director Elliott Wright.

The nonprofit received a $5,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund this year to support Environmental Volunteers' public education series — lectures, art exhibits, bird walks and other hands-on nature and science education opportunities for all ages.

Since 1972, Environmental Volunteers has worked to inspire in young students a passion for science and nature. The nonprofit was founded in Portola Valley by a group of women who called themselves the "Walkie Talkies," Wright said. The women went out for walks together and became increasingly concerned about the connection between protecting local nature and the lack of environmental education in schools. Gathered around a kitchen table, they developed a curriculum and then started taking students out to the Bay to explore and learn, Wright said.

Today, Environmental Volunteers is headquartered in the EcoCenter, a public nature center in the Baylands Nature Preserve, and works with 145 schools throughout the Bay Area, including in the Palo Alto Unified, Ravenswood City and Mountain View-Whisman school districts. More than 100 volunteers serve 10,000 students each year, according to the nonprofit. Environmental Volunteers also works with homeschooled students.

Greater than half of the nonprofit's programs were delivered to schools where 40 percent or more of students are enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, and 43 percent were located at "extreme" low-income schools, where 70 percent or more of students are on the lunch program.

"They don't get access to the same science education nor the same access to field trips and natural sciences" as better-resourced students, Wright said.

Environmental Volunteers' lessons are aligned with California's Next Generation Science Standards for kindergarten through sixth grade. In 2011, the nonprofit launched a transportation fund to provide subsidies to enable low-income youth to go on science and environmental education field trips.

"There are so many Bay Area children who, despite their proximity to the Bay, redwood forests, oak woodlands and coastal trails, never get the opportunity," Wright wrote in a recent fundraising message.

He recalled a fifth-grader from East Palo Alto named Francisco who had seemed very stressed out, Wright said, until they arrived at the Fitzgerald Marine Preserve in Moss Beach on a field trip.

"We rounded the corner at this specific spot at Fitzgerald — you turn the corner and then can see the whole ocean. As we turned that corner and he looked out, I won't ever forget what he said. He said, 'I never knew the world was this big,'" Wright said.

The Castro Elementary School students who recently went on the trip to Los Trancos delved deeper into the world of earthquakes on Monday. The students were split up into small groups for activities, including testing structures they built from Play-Doh, toothpicks and straws on a shake table to understand how buildings can be damaged in earthquakes. Another group plotted real earthquakes of varying magnitudes on a large map of California, the color-coded pins eventually creating an image of the San Andreas Fault snaking down the state. With a third group, volunteer Drew Thompson demonstrated the impact of shifting tectonic plates using two pieces of paper and a pile of sand.

The students were noticeably energized by the hands-on activities and full of questions.

"That's what science does," Mayo told the group of students. "It makes us think about things and gives us more questions."

The earthquake curriculum is a mainstay of Environmental Volunteers but was recently overhauled to align with the state's new Next Generation Science Standards, Wright said. Another new program coming in 2019 is a biodiversity curriculum.

The nonprofit is also currently running a matching challenge grant to reach schools on Environmental Volunteers' waitlist.

Wright became Environmental Volunteers' executive director this spring, replacing longtime director Allan Berkowitz, but he's not new to the organization. He worked alongside the nonprofit in previous jobs at the Nature Conservancy, Palo Alto tree nonprofit Canopy and Sempervirens Fund in Los Altos, which works to preserve local redwood forests and parks.

The implications of his new role, however, feel particularly impactful in 2018, he said. The nonprofit estimates there are 130,000 additional children whom Environmental Volunteers could serve — thousands of unrealized future environmental stewards.

"What I've realized is that all of the conservancy wins that we have today are nothing without tomorrow's generation as advocates and supporters," Wright said, "because if we don't have the next generation with us, we'll see a rollback on every single win we've had."

Make a donation
2022 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy$10,000

AbilityPath$10,000

Able Works$10,000

Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area
$10,000

Blossom Birth & Family$5,000

Canopy$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Children's Health Council$10,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$5,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto$10,000

Counseling and Support Services for Youth - CASSY$15,000

DreamCatchers$15,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation$10,000

East Palo Alto Charter School$5,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring$15,000

East Palo Alto YMCA$10,000

Eastside College
Preparatory School
$7,500

EPACENTER$10,000

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo$10,000

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Kara$15,000

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Live In Peace$10,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Midpen Media Center$7,500

Music in the Schools Foundation$8,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

New Voices for Youth$5,000

Pacific Art League of Palo Alto$12,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care $30,000

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peer Point$20,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Peninsula Youth Theatre$5,000

Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation$20,000

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation$10,000

Reading Partners
Silicon Valley
$10,000

ReadySetExcel$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$7,500

Resource Area for
Teaching (RAFT)
$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$7,500

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)$10,000

WeHOPE$15,000

WomenSV$7,500

Youth Community Service$25,000

Child Care Grants

All Five$10,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

Creative Montessori
Learning Center
$10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000

* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

43 Anonymous135,210
Linda Selden700
Elliot Stein100
Virginia Pollard100
Judith Steiner150
Janice Sedriks100
Charles Katz200
Georgie Gleim1,000
Edward Shapiro250
Albert Russell250
Jean Doble*
Mark Chandler250
Eileen Brennan200
Alice Evarts500
Jill & Brian Bicknell300
Elgin & Elizabeth Lee500
Barbara Klausner250
Erwang Mao100
Leslie & Douglas Murphy-Chutorian5,000
Suzanne Garadis50
Martha Berding200
Merele McClure250
Susan Ashworth100
Annette Isaacson200
Wallace Whittier150
Judith Kleinberg50
Veronica Tincher150
Mary Ann Sing100
Monica Engel Williams200
Mary Dimit200
Megan Fogarty100
John Wilkes600
Carol Kersten200
Ellen Krasnow500
Jim Lobdell250
Jlovuolo- Bhushan25
Carolyn Williams200
Lenore Jones100
Bonnie Packer100
Rosalie Shepherd100
Karen Olson250
Richard Zuanich100
Janis Ulevich125
Lovinda Blohm20
Larry Hyde*
Vickie Martin100
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Eileen & Rick Brooks1,000
Connie Fasani100
Sara Hammond100
Graceann Johnson100
Irene Kane100
Jan Thompson & Roy Levin250
John Tang*
Ed & Linda De Meo500
Micki & Bob Cardelli*
Patti Yanklowitz150
John & Mary Schaefer100
Judy Kramer*
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Marc & Margaret Cohen300
Harriet Benson10,000
The Dong Family200
Elaine & Eric Hahn*
Stephanie Klein & Larry Baer*
Bill Reller *
Bruce & Jane Gee250
Arthur Keller500
Bruce & April Robinson*
Lawrence Yang & Jennifer Kuan10,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Bruce & Mary Beth Train1,000
Julius Guccione100
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Sally O'Neil & Ken Bencala100
Carolyn Brennen*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Diane Moore*
David & Betsy Fryberger*
Alicia Newman250
Karen & Steve Ross*
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Wileta Burch30
Constance Crawford350
Fischgrund Family200
Amado Padilla250
Xiaofan Lin50
Neilson Buchanan500
Patrick Burt500
Marcia Katz200
Scott and Jan Kilner500
Andrea Smith100
Harry and Susan Hartzell100
Steven Feinberg10,000
Kenyon Family250
Ellmann Family 100
Richard Alexander1,000
Ann and Don Rothblatt500
Keith Clarke*
Roger Smith400
Roger Warnke300
Betsy & George Bechtel150
Tess & Eric Byler100
Barbara Harriman Spreng500
Bruce Campbell200
Phillip Hanawalt1,000
Michael Havern5,000
Sylvia Gartner100
Lisa Akselrad25
M D Savoie500
Judith Ousterhout150
Joan Jack100
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal350
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
William Debord2,000
Robert Aulgur1,000
Jeanne & Leonard Ware*
Ellen & Tom Ehrlich250
Jan & Freddy Gabus250
Gwen Luce*
Barbara & Robert Simpson*
Priscilla & Tony Marzoni*
Dorothy Saxe*
Kay & Don Remsen*
Hal & Iris Korol*
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Mindy & David Sitzer*
Marilyn Simbeck*
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell2,000
Jody Maxmin*
Angelo Family Foundation5,000
Barbara Klein*
Dorothy Deringer200
Katherine and Dorsey Bass200
Patrick Burt500
Ruby Zefo500
Carli Scott100
David Kalkbrenner*
Nancy & Joe Huber*
Richard Baumgartner & Elizabeth Salzer*
Debby Roth200
Cathy & Howard Kroymann250
Wendy Sinton*
Linda & Jerry Elkind500
Julie & Jon Jerome*
Allen Smith & Ann Burrell*
Anne & Charlie Williams150
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
Gerald & Joyce Barker200
Brigid Barton & Rob Robinson1,000
Ellen & Mike Turbow200
Jim & Valerie Stinger250
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
George & Betsy Young*
Vic Befera100
Edward Kanazawa300
Kingston Duffie & Liz Schwerer500
Susie Richardson & Hal Luft250
Susan Kemp250
John Antoun1,500
Debbie Mytels100
Donald Barr*
Donna Silverberg200
Susan & Doug Woodman200
Pat & Rich Douglas50
Leannah Hunt250
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Diana Diamond500
Diane Doolittle*
Barbara Riper*
Leif & Sharon Erickson500
Dena Hill500
Christine Prior100
Michael Kieschnick1,000
Nancy Rossen150
Sallie & Jay Whaley*
David McCalmont1,000
Lynn Newman100
Barbara Allen100
Richard Smallwood1,000
Becky & Ted Baer250
Marcie Brown100
Ken & Michele Dauber1,000
Hoda Epstein*
Catherine Dolton150
A C & Kathryn Johnston500
Martha Shirk1,100
Ron & Melanie Wilensky500
Ralph Wheeler300
Nancy & Jim Baer*
Anne & Don Vermeil*
Joan Norton*
Katherine Bryant*
Daniel & Janis Tuerk*
Tom & Nancy Fiene100
Beth & Peter Rosenthal*
Chris & Beth Martin*
Nancy Tuck2,000
Diane & David Feldman750
Christina Kenrick2,500
Penelope Barrett100
Steve and Noel Beitler150
Diane and Brandy Sikic450
Susan Levenberg180
Elizabeth Weingarten50
Joan Regalado100
Susan Kaye200
Barbara Kinsey400
Susan Thomas500
David Hoexter100
Susan Elgee500
Romola Georgia*
Katherine Jarvis250
Catherine Ballantyne*
Bonnie Berg500
Nancy Moss250
Mr. and Mrs. John J. McLaughlin100
Dr. Teresa L. Roberts1,000
Sally Hewlett Fund1,000
Peter B. Giles250
Kay Sabin*
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Gwen Barry*
Susan Yee*
Jean MacDonel200
The UMOC Charitable Fund250,000
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Jeremy Platt & Sandra Murphy300
Loni Freeman & Stephen Monismith*
Werner Graf2,000
Kim Harvey2,000
Feinstein Family1,000
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Virginia & Jim Fruchterman250
Karen Backer500
Christina Holt250
Peak-Filseth Charitable Fund500
Curt & Margaret Weil1,000
Wachtel Family1,000
Mary Lemmon25,000
Eric Keller & Janice Bohman500
Fran Codispoti250
Deborah Williams & Jean Luc Laminette1,000
Brennan Family500
Herbert Fischgrund100
Claire & Ed Lauing250
John & Martha McLaughlin200
Rob Colley & Kate Godfrey*
Glenda & Gordon Hughes*
In Memory Of

Kaye Kelley and Richard Van Dusen500
Don Kenyon50
Lew Silvers*
Larry Breed*
Er-Ying and YC Yen250
Jim and Dottie Mellberg250
E. Yanosh Alt20
Millie Rose Coldenhoff100
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Leonard Ely500
Boyd Paulson Jr.*
Phillip Zschokke100
Mary Floyd*
Carol Berkowitz*
Pam Grady250
Lily & Phillip Gottheiner*
Kathy Morris*
August King*
Duncan Matteson1,000
David Mitchell*
Mason & Ryan*
Ian Halliday*
Ted Linden300
Florence K. Ho2,500
Mae & Al Kenrick500
Ray Bacchetti300
Marilyn D. Hansen200
Catherine Chow*
Emmett Lorey*
Betty Meltzer30
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Nancy & Robert Lobdell*
Bob Kirkwood*
Gary Fazzino200
Don & Marie Snow*
Dr. Richard Greene200
Robert O. Jack500
Ruth C. Satterthwaite*
Jack Sutorius500
The Tinney Family250
Hannah & Helen Peterson50
Beverly Aarts*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Tom Nolan Esq.100
Bob Merkevitch*
Bob Donald300
In Honor Of

Ada's Cafe*
Mandy Lowell*
Billee Werby100
Jill & Brian Bicknell*
Marilyn Sutorius500
Emma & Rich Pompetti500
As a Gift for

Dr. Ned Lund100
Street Cleaners100
Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez2,500
Businesses & Organizations

Packard Foundation25,000
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Perry Foundation 10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run36,900
Sponsors of Moonlight Run:
  Stanford Health Care10,000
  Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
  Sutter Health/
Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
  Wealth Architects5,000
  Facebook5,000
  Deleon Realty5,000
  Kaiser Permanete5,000
  Stanford Federal Credit Union5,000
  Lakin Spears2,000
  Bank of the West1,500
Bleibler Properties LLC500
deLemos Properties LLC200
Johnson & Johnson Foundation1,000

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000