UCANR Picks up the Reins for High School Camp

Feb 19, 2021

After 35 years of range management education in California, survey shows that 95% of respondents better understand ecosystem processes and 90% of respondents better understood how their actions impact the environment.

The Issue

For 35 years, the California-Pacific Section of the Society for Range Management organized and sponsored the annual Range and Natural Resources Youth Camp (Range Camp) for high school students. This week long camp is held annually at UC's Elkus Ranch and provides an immersive experience focused on the science and art of range and natural resource management. As time passed, it became clear that a new organization needed to pick up the reins of Range Camp to sustain this effective youth science education outreach program.

How UC Delivers

In response, livestock and natural resources Advisors Theresa Becchetti, Julie Finzel, Rebecca Ozeran, and Devii Rao took up the reins for all facets of Range Camp planning and operations. They secured funding to integrate a teacher training component into camp and to facilitate the development of a high school range management curriculum focused on the unique characteristics of California rangelands.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and it became clear that an in-person camp was not feasible, the camp experience was restructured to accommodate an all virtual experience. The traditionally week long camp was condensed into 23 brief videos and activities, each of which covered an important science concept. Topics included:

  • Rangeland Ecology
  • Rangeland Monitoring
  • Plant Identification
  • Ornithology
  • Virtual Ranch Tours
  • Ranch Economics
  • Wildlife
  • Climate Change
  • Fire Ecology
  • Careers in Range Management

The Impact

A survey was distributed in 2017 to campers from 2001-2016 to assess the impact of Range Camp. Survey response rate was 18%, with 95% of respondents indicating that camp increased their understanding of natural resources and 90% of respondents reporting that camp changed their perceptions of how our personal actions affect the environment. College majors among survey respondents were heavily weighted towards science degrees. Range Camp graduates have gone on to be UCCE Advisors, work for NASA, direct youth education outreach organizations and more. Range Camp is about more than teaching science; it's about challenging preconceptions, fostering new friendships, and building life skills. One camper stated:

I felt so complete when the sun was disappearing behind the hills…it was as if camp made me realize that I can make a difference. Suddenly, beating global warming and climate change seemed possible…Range Camp has enlightened me. It has changed me. It has permanently made me a ‘happy camper.'

After 35 years, and a few bumps along the way, Range Camp has a bright future with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. For more information about Range Camp, visit our website.