Our story begins in 2008 when a local homeschool family began organizing a group of kids to get together and explore the hills and gullies of the Ranch and Briones, with a few enthusiastic naturalists as their mentors. This was the birth of our Explorers program.
Horses and Archery soon followed as passionate staff and youth were drawn to this special place. Our woodshop program grew out of a dream to have a tree fort at the Ranch – who better to build a kid-fantastic tree fort than the kids themselves?
Sienna Ranch has now developed into a vibrant community of passionate educators, offering classes as varied as horse riding, archery, wood shop, science, gardening, art, animal education, and wild tending.
Before Sienna Ranch came to be, our land already had a long history, the evidence of which is all around.
Millions of years ago, this land sat at the bottom of a shallow ocean. Today we can find fossilized shells in a number of places on our hills, which were first laid down in the muddy ocean sediment.
For thousands of years, the Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone people thrived off the land’s natural bounty of oaks, bay trees, and animals, and continue to live in this area today.
Hundreds of years ago our gigantic Valley oaks – the Tree Fort Tree and Climbing Tree – were just sprouting from their acorns. The branches of these grandmother oak trees were possibly shaped by the Ohlones as they grew, creating the spectacular boughs we enjoy today.
Our world today is very different from when our grandmother oak trees first sprouted from acorns a few hundred years ago. Its fun to imagine what the world will look like when the acorns sprouting on our hills this year are grown into grandmother oaks, and to ask ourselves: What do we want the world to look like?
We are inspired to provide nature immersion programs that create a deep sense of place and nature connection in the next generation of global stewards.
We strive for multi-faceted learning experiences. When we make cheese one child may be learning the fine motor skill of juicing a lemon, while another is inspired by the simple chemistry of cheese curdling, and still another is navigating social skills and teamwork within the group. Each of these lessons is valuable and whenever possible, recognized with positive reinforcement. Small group size allows adequate space for each child to create their own experience, and every aspect of their experience has a lesson within it.
We touch, smell, observe, listen to, and taste our lessons. Free exploration in nature, facilitated by an experienced mentor, provides the most fertile ground for teachable moments and developing a child’s connection with nature. We allow for this in our curriculum by ensuring that we do not schedule every minute of the day. The most important and lasting lessons of the day are often unplanned, when both the instructor and children are simply following their delight and curiosity down a gopher hole.
We manage risk by increasing our awareness of the world around us. Our instructors are highly experienced professional outdoor educators with outstanding safety records who are committed to safely engaging students in nature. We encourage children to run and climb trees when appropriate, and prefer to guide them with safe strategies for negotiating risks, rather than eliminating risks altogether. We understand that when a child leaves camp with a scraped knee and a smile they have experienced a valuable lesson, and we expect the same understanding from our students’ parents.
We care about community. Our choices impact not only ourselves, but the people, land and environment in which we live. Sienna Ranch values connection to the growing seasons to appreciate where food originates, we value and respect the animals we choose to care for and we care for the connection our programming has to our neighbors! One of the exciting additions we’ve made to our property in the last few years is the Grow-to-Give orchard, which we call Harvest Hill. Initiated by our neighbors, ILM Tree (an acronym that stands for “Inspired Learning for Muslims”), Sienna Ranch is happy to host the space for ILM Tree and a local non-profit, the Urban Farmers, to work toward the mission of harvesting fresh backyard fruit for donation to the needy. Connect to the land by volunteering with the Urban Farmers at Sienna Ranch or another East Bay location. We agree, “This simple work, helps the environment, feeds the hungry and builds community!” – Urban Farmers website