Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a few frequently asked questions asked by families with students attending Outdoor Education:

What if it rains?

San Mateo Outdoor Education is located in a temperate rainforest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, so precipitation is likely. The amount of rain we receive, particularly during the winter and early spring, allows Redwood trees to grow in one of the southernmost locations on the planet. Fortunately, precipitation usually does not affect our program. We prepare for the weather by dressing in raincoats and ponchos and hike as normal. Since rain can happen any week of the year, be sure to have your child bring a raincoat to Outdoor Education. An extra pair of shoes is nice to have in case one pair gets wet. If it is raining on Monday upon your child's arrival at Outdoor Education, make sure to have a rain jacket or poncho with your child on the school bus, rather than packed in his/her luggage.

Why can't my child bring hairspray and/or a blow dryer?

Outdoor Education is a special week in which we are experiencing nature and trying to minimize our dependence on comfort objects. Some hair care products are destructive to the environment, attract insects, and can be the cause of allergic reactions in other people. In addition, our busy schedule and effort to limit electricity use do not allow for use of blow dryers.

What is the food like?

Great! The YMCA Camp Jones Gulch kitchen staff has had years of experience cooking for students. A vegetarian option is available at every meal and special dietary needs are always accommodated. Please review our menu to learn about the food served at Outdoor Education. Contact our Health Care Specialist with any questions about dietary needs.

Does my child get to take showers?

Yes. Your child will be able to take two showers during the week at Outdoor Education. Showers are taken before dinner and with your child's cabin group. Not all cabins have private shower areas; therefore, your child should bring a bathing suit.

Will my child be in a cabin with his or her friends?

We cannot guarantee that your child will be in a cabin with his or her friends, but he or she will definitely be with 2 to 3 students from his or her class. Your child will have the opportunity to meet new friends with students from other schools who are assigned to the same cabin during his or her week at Outdoor Education.

What kinds of animals will my child see?

Jones Gulch is home to deer, raccoons, red-tailed hawks, rabbits, bobcats, banana slugs, and many insects smaller than the eye can see. There have been no documented mountain lion sightings in the area, and bears are extinct in this part of California.

Does he or she have to kiss a banana slug?

We leave it up to your child. Banana slugs are the San Mateo Outdoor Education mascot. They live on the forest floor. Because they are yellow in color, they can be spotted easily. Every student will have the opportunity to join the Banana Slug Club by kissing a slug found in the forest. We do this to show our appreciation for the hard work these decomposers do to keep our forest alive.

What happens if my child has a problem at night?

High school cabin leaders will be sleeping in the cabin with your child and his or her cabin mates. Students can wake their cabin leaders in the event of a problem or emergency. Additionally, teachers are on-call in a nearby cabin and are available to assist with an emergency. Our Health Care Specialist is also on-call 24 hours a day to respond to a serious medical situation.

What should my child bring?

Refer to the packing list for any questions about which items to bring.

Allison Collins

Director, Outdoor Environmental Education


Phone: (650) 747-9581

Jonathan Harris

Manager, Outdoor Education


Phone: (650) 747-0414

Amanda Lee

Administrative Assistant, Outdoor Education Information and Registration


Phone: (650) 802-5360