top of page

Wilderness Arts and Literacy Collaborative

Integrating environmental education and ethnic studies to serve San Francisco youth

Introduction to WALC

The Wilderness Arts and Literacy Collaborative (WALC) is an academic program at two public high schools in southeast San Francisco — Balboa High School and Downtown Continuation High School — that uses the integration of environmental studies and ethnic studies as the foundation for an interdisciplinary educational experience. WALC serves primarily lower-income youth of color who have historically been underserved, many of whom are placed at risk of academic underachievement or even dropping out of high school. As such, WALC utilizes environmental themes such as biodiversity, interdependence, flux equilibrium, and sustainability to integrate science, history, literature, writing, art, and math within rigorous and relevant curricula that centers the historical and contemporary experiences of people of color. A multitude of field studies such as camping trips, day explorations, and habitat restoration are interwoven with classroom learning to create a highly engaging educational experience, providing a conceptual and experiential framework that directly helps our students understand the books, write the papers, complete the projects, conduct the workshops, analyze the experiments, compete in the debates, deliver the presentations, and finish the numerous other assignments we require to ensure their academic growth.

WALC offers our students a truly alternative educational experience that is genuinely based on immersion in the outdoors. Our students explore natural environments from forests to grasslands, mountains to deserts, rivers to wetlands, volcanoes to lakes, and national parks to city parks where we spend countless hours working to restore native habitats. In the field, our students gain the benefits of nature, an academic edge borne of real world study, and a better understanding of themselves as we examine the ways they can apply lessons they learn about nature to themselves, their people, and their communities.


WALC is unique in the field of environmental education in that our program was created by teachers of color for students of color as an educational alternative designed to directly address our students’ critical academic needs as well as facilitate their sense of self and sense of place as participants in society and in the ecological processes of our planet. Since 1999, long before more recent attention to the need for diversity and representation in outdoor spaces and environmental programming, we have been institutionalized within the master schedule at each high school where we serve our students intentionally and purposefully.

Hear alumni at our 20th Anniversary Gala describe what WALC has meant to them.

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
bottom of page