Sienna Ranch is a small family-owned business that includes a vibrant community of passionate educators, offering classes as varied as horse riding, archery, wood shop, cooking, pottery, gardening, art, animal education, and wild tending.
Sienna Ranch’s mission is to connect Bay Area youth to nature through compelling outdoor programs to cultivate a more compassionate and environmentally aware future.
Our story begins in 2008 when a local homeschool family began organizing a group of kids to get together and explore the hills and gullies of Sienna Ranch and our neighboring Briones Regional Park, with a few enthusiastic naturalists as their mentors. This was the birth of our Explorers program.
Horses and Archery soon followed as passionate staff and youth were drawn to this special place. Our woodshop program grew out of a dream to have a tree fort at the Ranch – who better to build a kid-fantastic tree fort than the kids themselves?
Before Sienna Ranch came to be, our land already had a long history, the evidence of which is all around.
Millions of years ago this land was once the bottom of a shallow ocean. As time and tectonic activity lifted this land upward, the muddy ocean floor and all of the creatures settled into fossilized sedimentary rock. Today those fossils can be found in rock outcroppings throughout our hillsides.
Hundreds of years ago our gigantic Valley oaks – including our spectacular Valley Oak Treehouse – were just sprouting from their acorns. Today our land looks quite different from a few hundred years ago. It’s fun to imagine what the world will look like when the acorns sprouting on our hills this year are grown into grandmother oaks, and to ask ourselves: What do we want the world to look like?
We acknowledge that we are standing on the ancestral lands of the Saclan people of Lafayette, and the Bay Miwok and Ohlone people of the wider East Bay. They are the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and live. They stewarded this land throughout the generations and we recognize their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging. We at Sienna Ranch are grateful to share and connect to this natural environment and are inspired to provide nature immersion programs that create a deep sense of place and nature connection in the next generation of global stewards.
We strive for multifaceted learning experiences. Small group size allows adequate space for each child to create their own experience, and every aspect of their experience has a lesson within it. Our approach to education/learning is rooted in positive reinforcement and inquiry-based learning. Whether attending our school year programs or seasonal camps, we meet our participants where they are and strive to find connections between the natural world and their own personal interests. When we make cheese one child may be learning the fine motor skill of juicing a lemon, while another is inspired by the simple chemistry of cheese curdling, and still another is navigating social skills and teamwork within the group.
We touch, smell, observe, listen to, and taste our lessons. Our approach to nature connection is rooted in free exploration. Our skilled naturalist instructors provide mentorship and facilitate learning by balancing key learning objectives with a free-form class structure. We believe that not every minute of the day should be scheduled and learning can take many shapes and forms. In fact some of the most lasting lessons are often those that are unplanned or discovered along the journey. Whether coming upon some coyote scat on a hike or taking a detour to delight and revel in a gopher hole.
We manage risk by increasing our awareness of the world around us. Our instructors are highly experienced professional outdoor educators with outstanding safety records who are committed to engaging students in nature while protecting their well-being and providing the utmost care. We encourage children to run and climb trees when appropriate, and prefer to guide them with safe strategies for negotiating risks, rather than eliminating risks altogether. We understand that when a child leaves camp with a scraped knee and a smile they have experienced a valuable lesson, and we expect the same understanding from our students’ parents.
We are cultivating a more compassionate and environmentally aware future. Our choices impact not only ourselves but the land and environment in which we live. Sienna Ranch values connection to the growing seasons to appreciate where food originates, we value and respect the animals we choose to care for and we care for the connection our programming has to our neighbors! Sienna Ranch is a part of multiple restorative and regenerative land management programs including:
- Savory institute’s Ecological Outcome Verification program
- Xerces Society Grant for Pollinator Habitat Conservation and Restoration
- The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) habitat monitoring and mapping initiative
We care for and nurture our community. Sienna Ranch is an open welcoming place to all people: race. national origin, ability, gender identity, religion, political belief, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, and culture. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome. We accept people with differing identities and do not assume that every person looks the way they want to be identified. During registration we ask what your preferred pronoun is so that we can acknowledge and make sure we can refer to you correctly. Sienna Ranch is continually working on diversity, equity, and inclusion and we have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council made up of parents and staff members that meet monthly to talk through challenges and make improvements to our programs, communications, and staff practices. Our council also supports our allocation of the Emilie Inman fund. You can find out more about how to contribute or apply to this scholarship fund here.
At Sienna Ranch we strive to serve all students while also embracing neurological differences in our community. Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. Sienna Ranch supports all participants in their different physical, emotional, and learning needs. For neurotypical children who are interacting with neurodiversity for the first time it can feel confusing and uncomfortable. Your students may come home with questions. We encourage parents to talk to your children about acceptance and empathy so they can practice these important life skills.