We took a walking tour of the new Jennifer Maxwell Nature Trail, in process up on Step One’s hillside, with Teacher Amalie Hazelton. Amalie and Aubrie Sell Williams have been working to make this vision a reality, supplementing the natural playscapes of the hill with exciting educational content that encourages kids to explore and offers teachers new curricular possibilities. The new areas will include a geological dig, animal footprints to find, farm-to-table nutrition content for our hillside garden, and a cloud and sky observation station!
“The first station on the new trail will be a geological dig, for kids to learn about the clay, rock, and soil under the ground. There will be a digging area with rock, dirt, and sand, underground visuals, plus tables to sift through sand, dirt, and stone. Also, clay for the kids to sculpt with: Aubrie put together cards with clay artwork (pottery and sculpture) from around the world that the kids can use as inspiration.
“The next station will be tight-rope walking and balance.”
“Our middle section is focused on nature and animals: we created animal footprints that show the kids tracks they might see on the hillside, as well as an interactive display featuring our night-time visitors.”
“In the next area, our garden bed will move over to get more sun, and we’ll add a component to our edible garden about nutrition and how nutrients are used in the body, with images and games. We’ll also have hands-on, pretend fruits and vegetables for the kids to play with while the real ones are growing, plus bottles full of various fruit and vegetable seeds.”
“The sky and water station will be by the deck. It will feature big pieces of slate and brushes, which show evaporation: children can paint water on the slate, see their strokes, and watch them evaporate. We’ll also have images of cloud formations and mats to lie on their backs and watch the clouds.”
The Jennifer Maxwell Nature Trail is named in honor of Step One alum parent and lead project donor Jennifer Maxwell. Four of Jennifer’s six children attended Step One in the early and mid 90’s prior to their family moving from Berkeley to Marin County. She and her husband Brian Maxwell were the founders of PowerBar in 1986, owing to Jennifer’s degree in nutrition and their mutual business savvy.
Together they supported numerous projects at Step One, including a fund to support teachers and our hillside renovation in 2001-02, and Jennifer is a lead donor in the current Step Two construction campaign. After selling PowerBar and Brian’s passing in 2004, Jennifer has channeled her interests in sports, food and nutrition, nature, and music and art into support for innovative projects such as our new nature stations. We are excited to have her ongoing participation in Step One’s development and success.