Invasive Species, Saving Redwoods and Forestry Management: Students Visit County Park

While Mount Madonna School (MMS) school buses pass through Mount Madonna County Park each weekday morning and afternoon, on a recent day, MMS third through fifth grade students rode the school bus tonot through – the park, for an opportunity to hear about forest management.

“I learned that eucalyptus trees are invasive species,” said third grader Kailani Houston. “and they can make the redwood trees feel crowded and then forest fires happen.”

“As part of the third grade social studies curriculum, students learn about local history and geography,” commented teacher Madeline Hayes. “Our visit to the Mount Madonna County Park aligned beautifully by providing our students a hands-on experience of these concepts. Students were able to witness the impact of invasive species on native trees and the work involved in seeking forest health.”

This experiential learning presentation further aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, Life on Land. Goal 15.2 focuses specifically on managing forests sustainably, halting and reversing land and natural habitat degradation, successfully combating desertification and stopping biodiversity loss.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by 2030.

As students made themselves comfortable on a large redwood log, they were surprised to find that one of their presenters was MMS alumnus Braeden Will (’20), an intern with Santa Clara County Parks’ Natural Resources Program. Will’s co-presenter was Olivia Ross, a management aid with the program.

Fifth grade students participated to learn more about the local community and what affects its watershed. Fifth grade’s year-long, cross-curricular environmental project focuses on pelican conservation, and the broader watershed is connected to pelican survival.

“This forestry lesson helped the students gain an even deeper understanding of how ecosystems are connected,” commented teacher Jessica Cambell. “It was also so great to see Braeden Will in a role of protecting the environment and giving back to his previous school community. He of course asked our fifth grade what their environmental project was and shared that he worked on an environmental project as an MMS fifth grader, as well. Overall, the connection was very sweet! He also made some great references to the ‘Fairy Forest’ [a popular grove of redwood trees for MMS students], when explaining redwood ecology.”

“I know much of Braeden’s passion for forest health is due to his 13 years spent at Mount Madonna School playing, hiking and studying in the redwood forest, commented Will’s mother, Lynda, a programs coordinator with Santa Clara County Parks.

Will facilitated a session on indigenous people and how they lived in harmony with the land. His presentation incorporated many of the items he had seen his mother Lynda utilize many times over the years during her own presentations to Mount Madonna School classes. He said it was meaningful to use these same materials and pass on the knowledge that he had learned to the next generation.

Will said he enjoyed working with the kids and appreciated their thoughtful questions. He and Ross also led students on a hike, engaging them in plant identification and a discussion of forest health.

“It is important the redwoods get enough water,” said third grader Katherine Nissly. “Otherwise they would die and then the forest would be endangered.”

All of the SDGs are woven throughout the Mount Madonna School curriculum and initiatives, and have been for decades (even before the SDGs were formally identified). For the 2022-23 school year, six SDGs will receive extra focus at the school: SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), SDG 6 (Clean Water), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life below Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land). More information and resources can be found at The SDGs in Action.


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.


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