created because several teachers were concerned about racial tension at the school. Unity Club sponsors wanted to address the need for friendships to be formed and positive experiences to be shared by students across racial and ethnic lines.
We thought the outdoors was the perfect space to foster such goals. Through Unity Club outings, we noticed that students had many questions; as they grew to appreciate nature, they wanted to learn about the places that allowed them to connect with one other.
WALC, a direct descendant of the Unity Club, was launched at Balboa in 1998 as an extracurricular program that offered students after-school environmental science workshops as well as opportunities to attend weekend hiking and camping trips where they could learn about their surroundings and reflect upon their experiences through writing and artwork.
Since 1998, WALC was a Balboa High School club called Unity,
For all of these years, we have dedicated ourselves to collaboratively developing curriculum, scouting natural areas for field experiences, building community connections, learning from each other as well as our students, and taking advantage of numerous professional development opportunities.
In 1999, when Downtown High School restructured from a traditional six period day to self-contained, interdisciplinary project teams, WALC began there as a project-based program wherein students participate in WALC all day, every day for a full semester and all of their courses—science, English, social studies, art, math, and technology—are taught through the project, integrated with an environmental theme.
In the fall of 2000, Balboa WALC became one of the school’s small learning communities: a two-year academic pathway beginning in the 11th grade in which science, English, social studies and digital arts classes are integrated. Currently, WALC continues to be a two-year pathway at Balboa and a full-day, self-contained project at Downtown.
The result is a solid foundation of tightly interwoven interdisciplinary curriculum and field experiences wherein nature is truly a classroom, full of lessons and assignments connected to those at school.
In 2003 one of our teachers was selected by the Crissy Field Center as a Community Environmental Hero.
Our Downtown chapter was awarded the San Francisco Education Fund’s 2000 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching and our Balboa chapter was the subject of the Ed Fund’s 1999 published case study on environmental education.
Most importantly, many of our students have graduated and moved on to higher education where they are proving themselves to be fine scholars as well as active proponents of the environment and social justice.