I am doing the A-Z challenge, focusing on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is P for Pygmy Forest.
All Worth It
The Pygmy Forest was the site of yet another of Paul’s and my forced marches, where we made those poor middle school kids walk for what they felt was hours beyond what they were capable of doing. Whereas the students may not have appreciated what the Pygmy Forest had to offer, Paul and I sure did.
We had read up on the Pygmy Forest and simply stated, over the course of time, terraces were formed on the ocean floor, which were later exposed to the air. The decomposing of different plant forms made for a very inhospitable soil base which resulted in the stunting of trees and other vegetative growth. All this took place over hundreds of thousands of years. Pygmy Forests are found in other parts of the world, but they are certainly common along the northwest coastal ranges, and also in Southern California.
On this particular field trip, Paul and I had brought sixth, seventh and eighth graders over to the vicinity of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, to a facility called P.E.E.C, or Pacific Environmental Education Center. It was located within MacKerricher State Park, and featured student access to the beach, tide pools, seal rookery, coastal prairie, unique sand dunes and, of course, the Pygmy Forest.
We had planned this field trip for months, and ended up having to go at the end of March. Though we warned our students to bring rain gear, we were not expecting the deluge that arrived, at the same time as we did. Fortunately, we were housed in wooden huts and the food was prepared and served under a huge pavilion, so it could have been a lot worse.
How did we pay for this? Paul and I had written a grant for $5,000.00, for a seminar to be presented to seventh and eighth graders on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or F.A.S. It was one of the most powerful units we had ever attempted, and one of the most successful. Because we had the money to do so, we rented the huge mansion on the Jug Handle State Reserve, and presented to the students our series of participatory lessons on F.A.S, the only one hundred percent preventable birth defect. This was back in 1994, and the idea that women can not drink alcohol while pregnant, while not new, was certainly something that we felt thirteen and fourteen-year-old kids needed to learn and learn well.
We had P.E.E.C. take the sixth graders and present them a whole different series of lessons on the ecology of the region, and took the seventh and eighth graders to this very cool mansion, and outlined to them what we had in mind. The first part of the session involved role playing, which was done in front of their peers. The best one involved an eighth grade boy saying, in essence, “What does this have to with me? I’m a guy. I can’t get pregnant.”
The resulting dialogue was what we had been hoping for. The girls were indignant that the guys didn’t get the concept of support. The guys finally did get it and Paul and I shook hands, thinking if only one of these kids walks out of this seminar, and applies what he or she learned, it was all worth it.