Each year, 5,500 students and hundreds of teachers and cabin leaders spend a week at Outdoor Education to learn about the natural world, explore the forest and beach ecosystems, and work together as a community. Learn more about the program on the following pages:
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Outdoor Education staff, please visit our Become a Naturalist Intern section to learn more about becoming a Naturalist.
COVID-19 Safety Plan for Outdoor Education
The San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) prioritizes the safety of its students and staff. This plan lays out SMCOE’s COVID-19 safety plan for the 2021-22 school year. This plan reflects CDPH, CDC, and Cal/OSHA guidance.
- COVID-19 Safety Plan for SMCOE School Programs: Outdoor Education
- COVID-19 Safety at Outdoor Education (one-page summary) (English) (Spanish)
Welcome to the World of San Mateo Outdoor Education
The San Mateo County Office of Education conducts an award-winning Outdoor Education program in cooperation with local schools and the San Francisco YMCA Camp at Jones Gulch, nestled in the Redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains in La Honda, California.
The Outdoor Education program dates back to the summer of 1965 when Gus Xerogeanes, a natural sciences teacher for the San Bruno Park School District, took a group of 6th grade students on a week-long summer school adventure to the YMCA Camp at Jones Gulch.
A district-wide program for San Bruno Park Schools was started in the spring of 1966 with only 60 students each week. In the fall of 1966, more districts began participating in the program, which continued to be run by the San Bruno Park School District. A pilot Outdoor Education program was approved in 1968 and began with 650 pupils. The program was structured such that the Director was in constant contact with the districts' superintendents, coordinators, teachers, and the on-site staff of senior naturalists and naturalist interns. High school students volunteered as counselors, which are called cabin leaders today, and teachers from the schools accompanied their students to the site. The YMCA staff provided the food service and facility maintenance.
Today, Outdoor Education's dedicated staff continues to awaken in students an appreciation of the environment and the interdependence of all living and non-living things. District teachers are an active part of this experience, and the program has developed a loyal following of teachers who return with their students year after year to discover the benefits of the Outdoor Education experience.
More than 225,000 children have attended Outdoor Education since its inception in 1968. Both the academic program and the camp are certified, Resident Outdoor Science Schools (ROSS) by California Outdoor School Administrators (COSA). The camp also maintains American Camping Association (ACA) accreditation.
Make a difference in a child's life!
Please help support a San Mateo County student attend Outdoor Education. It costs more than $400 to provide food, lodging, instructors, equipment, and supplies for a student to attend a week of Outdoor Education. We want every child in San Mateo County to have the opportunity to experience a week in nature with their classmates. Your donation provides scholarships for those families who need financial support. Any amount is greatly appreciated!
Please make checks payable to "San Mateo County Office of Education" and mail them to:
San Mateo County Office of Education
101 Twin Dolphin Drive
Redwood City, CA 94065-1064
Your gift is tax deductible. Our Federal Tax ID Number is #94-6002468. For further information, please email Mark Nolan or call (650) 747-9581. Thank you for your consideration!
Each year, 11 naturalist interns are hired to participate in our program for 30 weeks. Interns teach environmental education classes, participate in evening activities, enforce safety and discipline standards, counsel students, and act as a liaison with teachers. The internship period is a full school year, beginning in September and ending in late May. Applications are due mid-April. Learn more about the position and application process.
Director, Outdoor Education
Phone: (650) 747-9581
Steve Van Zandt
Manager, Outdoor Education
Phone: (650) 747-0414
Administrative Assistant, Outdoor Education Information and Registration
Phone: (650) 802-5360