In awe in Yosemite | Two Decades of Kids and Counting | Sally Torbey | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

View all posts from Sally Torbey

In awe in Yosemite

Uploaded: Nov 19, 2015
Last week I accompanied a group of Paly students to Yosemite National Park. Seventy five freshmen, all students in Paly’s TEAM (Together Everybody Achieves More) program, spent a week at Yosemite with the Nature Bridge program. In groups of 12-15 students, which included a 12th grade student leader, and teacher and/or parent chaperone, we were guided about the park by environmental educators who taught us everything you’d ever want to know about Yosemite, including the park’s geological history, the life of Native Americans that inhabited the valley, how the current drought affects the park, and how the land came to be a national park. We also attended lectures on climate change and a talk about the cosmos.
In addition to the academic pursuits, the groups played trust games and embarked on group challenges, such as leading one another through a pitch-black cave. Our group participated in a service project of clearing brush, wielding saws and massive clippers, while learning about controlled burns. The kids loved scrambling up paths of boulders, building snow men and molding the perfect snowball, but the highlight of the week was a hike up 700 icy steps to a waterfall, each student taking turns being the leader, setting the pace and looking after the group.
Spending a week outdoors in such majestic beauty and in the company of energetic, bright teen-agers is profound. Most of the kids in my group did not know each other well on day #1, but by day #6 had become a cohesive unit that celebrated the accomplishment of finally being one of the first groups ready for the 7am breakfast roll call. We relished the shorter lines and choice of seats in the cafeteria that morning!
We marveled as the brilliant fall colors transformed to branches and leaves coated in white glistening snow after the season’s first snow fall, and walked through a meadow, the sky thick with heavy snowflakes, admiring the first snow flake to stick instead of melt on a mitten.
I watched my group become more comfortable and confident in the out-of-doors, and trusting and caring towards one another. We enjoyed the stunning views from our hike, the icy puddles that shattered with a stomp, the crow that loudly scolded us during the quiet reflection and writing time, the crisp apple for snack, and the joy of the unexpected flush toilet. At times we were all wet, cold, tired and sore, and unenthusiastic about a lunch of cold tomato paste on tortillas, but there was no whining or complaining, just a whole lot of laughing and learning.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Samuel, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 19, 2015 at 9:46 am

Wonderful scene for all, students, parents, teachers and chaperones!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 19, 2015 at 9:59 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Samuel, for reading and commenting! It was an unforgettable week!

Posted by Maria, a resident of University South,
on Nov 19, 2015 at 10:22 am

Thank you Sally, as a former Paly parent, I'm sure the Yosemite trip was one of the most important experiences for my daughter. I hope Paly will continue with TEAM and all the activities involved.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 19, 2015 at 10:29 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Maria,
Thank you for reading and commenting! My children who participated in TEAM would agree with your daughter!
The district's Enrollment Management Advisory Committee recently released a report recommending that the high schools create smaller learning environments, which is exactly what TEAM does, as well as incorporate project based and experiential learning. It is my hope that TEAM and other such programs will receive more support from the district so that the programs can be enlarged and all kids interested in participating can be part of it.

Posted by former TEAM family, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Nov 20, 2015 at 7:50 am

TEAM is a great resource and the Yosemite trip is always a highlight. From my memories, the Yosemite trip did not require parent chaperones as they had all the TEAM teachers. I would have loved to have gone with my son, but I expect he would have not wanted me there with them if we were allowed.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 20, 2015 at 9:10 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear former TEAM family,
Thanks for reading and commenting! I'm glad your son had a good experience, too! I actually saw very little of my daughter during the week since parent chaperones were placed in a different group from their son/daughter, and we spent most of the time in our small groups, so kids ddid have sufficient space from their parents, which is important!

Posted by GC, a resident of Jordan Middle School,
on Nov 20, 2015 at 11:34 am


Thank you for sharing the TEAM experience which is unknown to this parent of a middle schooler. At a gathering last night we heard from a member of the districts's Enrollment Management Advisory Committee about recommending programs like TEAM at Paly. You post about the experience could not be more timely or appreciated. What a wonderful experience for all!

Again, thank you for taking the time to share.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 20, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, GC, for reading and commenting. We are hoping that TEAM can be expanded next year to accommodate all 9th grader students who want to be part of it. Fingers crossed that the district supports this effort! I'll keep you posted.

Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Nov 20, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Wonderful trip! Lucky students to start high school this way!!

Posted by JK, a resident of another community,
on Nov 23, 2015 at 2:35 pm

As a PALY graduate who was apart of the TEAM program, reading this article reminds me of my trip to Yosemite where I bonded with the other students in my group and had the opportunity to explore and learn about the outdoors. It is a unique experience that I feel cannot be taught in a classroom. I am glad that you had a positive experience and thank you for sharing the great reflection!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 23, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks LJ and JK for reading and commenting!
I'm glad you have fond memories of bonding with your classmates in Yosemite, JK! I think TEAM can serve as a great model for how to facilitate the transition to high school.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 23, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Yosemite is such a treasure! We are lucky to live so near this wonderful park. If you haven't taken your family, you should consider a day trip. If you leave early, you can spend the entire day visiting the park and return in the evening. It will leave you wanting more.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 23, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Nayeli,
Thank you for reading and commenting!
That would be an ambitious day trip as Yosemite is four hours away, but with some really great audio books or music it might be doable!

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

California must do a better job spending cap-and-trade revenue
By Sherry Listgarten | 2 comments | 2,048 views

Planting a Fall Garden?
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,575 views