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Students practice their map reading
skills at Golden Gate Park

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Students contemplate Monet’s work at the
Legion of Honor

Explorers Program

The Explorers program has developed over the past two years and represents a unique opportunity for our afternoon students to explore the rich culture of San Francisco. It is also a way for us to make children’s learning visible in our community. After their morning adventures, the students then come to school to participate in their normally scheduled class. The Explorer students and teachers navigate the city using Muni and do not have a classroom here at Stretch during the morning. Rather, the city is their classroom.

During the program’s first year, the Explorer Children investigated the local artist Ruth Asawa and traveled the city to learn more about her work, her inspiration, and her culture. They visited her many sculptures throughout the city including her fountains and her wire sculptures in The de Young Museum. They also investigated Japantown and came to know many of the merchants in this area so close to our school.

The Explorers program is a unique opportunity for students to explore the rich culture of San Francisco, using the city as their classroom.

This past year, the children traveled into Chinatown and investigated the many sites, smells, tastes, and traditions of this culturally rich part of our city. Children are dropped off with their teachers at a park (Lafayette Park was the location for 2013/2014) that is close to the bus line they are taking. It has been wonderful to see how many children have then taken their families back to retrace their adventures over the weekend and act as a guide to teach their parents what they have learned.

Below you will find reflections from many of the parents who have participated in the program over the past two years. Many have also offered to speak with any parents who are interested and have questions.

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A group of students takes a peek at a fruit stand in San Francisco’s Chinatown

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Students visit with a furry San Francisco resident during an excursion

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A student pauses to appreciate some of Ruth Asawa’s sculptures at the de Young

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Students experiment with wire

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A student takes in the view from the
tower at the de Young museum

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Students journal in front of the fountain
in Golden Gate Park

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A student proudly shows his observational drawings at Golden Gate Park

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Students take in the view of San Francisco

Parent Reflections

I asked Moses last night what he loves about Explorers–”everything! long city walks, city bus rides”. We can’t drive past Japantown without Moses sharing all about their time last year in the pagoda, journaling, having mochi and exploring. The Ruth Asawa study was incredible. Similar to Japantown memories, everywhere we go in SF, Moses has stories to tell and he’s been there–the little hiking hill above Randall Museum, Ocean beach, Union Square, seeing Ruth Asawa at the De Young and playing in the Conservatory out front, seeing sculptures on the Embarcadero–not Ruth Asawa but loves them. 

As for Chinatown–also a huge hit! Moses carried a business card home from Canton Bazaar on Grant St. He was so eager and excited to take me there this weekend and on Sunday, Moses walked me through the store and shared what he knew about many little artifacts–(pear tea “is incredible mom!” telling me about Chinese zodiac signs, where jade animals reside in the store…it’s all sensory and magical to a 5 year old). As parents we’ve always had complete trust in our Explorers teachers to take wonderful care of Moses as he’s out and about in the city. It’s incredible that at 4 and 5 years old, these kids are navigating Muni, museums, meeting local characters around town with open arms and taking in so much culture.

 — Mary, Redwood Parent

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We can’t drive past Japantown without Moses
sharing all about their time last year in the pagoda,
journaling, having mochi and exploring.

— Mary, Redwood Parent

Holden has participated in the Explorers program for the past two years. The Explorers select a theme to study for the whole year, and then go out into the city to investigate that theme. Last year, the group studied the sculptor Ruth Asawa. They went forth and viewed her various works throughout the city and discussed what might have inspired her. They also studied the materials she worked with, and they learned about her Japanese heritage, even making numerous trips to Japantown to study Japanese culture.

Prior to this project we knew nothing about Ruth Asawa so it was a real treat to have Holden teach us about her. He told about her Japanese heritage, and even taught us a few Japanese words, he took us to various places in the city to view her work (Japantown, Union Square and the Embarcadero), and told us about the materials she liked to work with and what inspired her. It was really cool to see it all come together and to hear Holden talk about Ruth Asawa in such a comprehensive, enthusiastic way. The effects were far-reaching: Last spring, we were rushing through Terminal 2 at SFO, and Holden looked at one of the art installations hanging from the ceiling and said, “Mommy, that looks like a Ruth Asawa sculpture” (and he was right, it did!). Despite us being late for our flight, we literally stopped in our tracks; it was such a cool moment to see him make that connection in everyday life and educate us with his knowledge

— Halle, Redwood Parent

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It was a real treat to have Holden teach us about
Ruth Asawa. He told us about her Japanese heritage,
and even taught us a few Japanese words.

— Halle, Redwood Parent

The Explorers program gave my child the opportunity to learn about beautiful parts of the City that we do not usually visit. She learned about local artists and landmarks that are often overlooked by local residents. Annabel taught us about the great works of Ruth Asawa – some of which we casually pass everyday without thinking twice. Annabel told me her favorite part of the program is, “seeing different parts of the world on the bus- the people inside and looking at places on the outside.” For a five year old, exploring San Francisco really is like traveling the world.

— Lori, Redwood Parent

“Explorers is such a unique experience for our children to explore their own city. Lexi looks forward to her Explorer day each week and has learned more about Chinatown in five months than Greg and I have in 13 years of living in San Francisco! Not only is she learning more about Chinatown and its culture, she is also learning how to be a responsible Muni rider. In addition, she has expanded her personal Stretch community since there are kids from both the Oak and Redwood classes and the teachers of the program are different than her everyday teachers.

We feel very fortunate that Lexi has had this opportunity and highly recommend the program!

— Jenny, Oak Parent

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For a five year old, exploring San Francisco really is
like traveling the world.

— Lori, Redwood Parent

Since participating in Stretch’s Explorers Program, we have observed our daughter’s curiosity and confidence flourish. In fact, after her first week, she decided to lead our family on the city bus, retracing her class’ steps through Chinatown. We’ve been simply thrilled to see our daughter relating these real-life discoveries with past experiences as she processes the world around her.

— JJ and Michelle, Redwood Parents

We have loved the experiences that Maggie has had this year in Wednesday Explorers. She is an excellent bus commuter, can easily recognize Chinese writing, and has learned from tasting that she prefers “buttermilk” tea to “sweet” tea. Without her time with Explorers, who knows if she would have had the opportunity to do these things? It has definitely opened up her world without leaving the city she lives in.

— Mia, Redwood Parent

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Since participating in Stretch’s Explorers Program,
we have observed our daughter’s curiosity and
confidence flourish

— JJ and Michelle, Redwood Parents

The Explorers excursions are typically the highlight of our daughter Jillian’s school week. The program has given her the rare opportunity to experience and explore city life apart from her family, but under safe and highly stimulating conditions. And we see the growing confidence and independence these experiences are fostering. But the best proof of the program’s value is that on Explorer days, Jillian comes home tired, happy, and eager to share the details of her day’s adventure.

— Valerie, Redwood Parent

— Parent