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What is the California Backcountry ?

Learning Activities for the Week

1. Use the laminated California map to show the classroom where the Sierra Nevada is in the east, where the Cascade and Klamath Mountains are in the north, where the Channel Islands are off the coast, where the costal ranges are north and south, and where the remote desert is to the east. If you have a removable laminate marker – or a small square of white mailing label, mark your school location on the map. Compare how much of California is Backcountry, and how much is valley and front country. Ask students to tell one another about any trips they have made to the Backcountry.

2. Now have them log into their email account and read the messages in their class account. Ask them to compose and send a message back to the list that includes the following : their school name, teacher’s name, grade level, first name of each student, and what it is like where they live and go to school. Send to

3. Using a chalk or white board, once the students have read the ‘Introduction’ link about What is the California Backcountry?, ask them to consider these questions :

Which of these things would and would not be found in the California Backcountry ?
( we suggest making two categories on the board, asking them to decide, and have a student write each item under the category it best falls into based on class consensus )




Smoggy skies

Fresh water

Traffic lights




Bright evening stars

Bears who steal hiker’s food

Noisy tourists with radios

Trucks pulling camping trailers

Cigarette butts

Empty beer cans




Rock climbers


Forest rangers


Motorcycles on trails



Convenience stores


Sewage plants


Familiar neighbors and friends

Loud, powerful lightning storms

Very few other people on the trails

Quiet and peacefulness

Dangerous cliffs

Beautiful views

Wind in the tree tops

Traffic jams

Poison Oak

Places to cross country ski

Swimming holes

Open meadows


Now have each student look at how they divided up these things.

Ask each student to decide, on their own, from the FOUND-IN the Backcountry list which ONE thing they would like to enjoy in the Backcountry, and what ONE they would most rather not experience in the Backcountry.

With each student’s top yes and no choices, log them onto their account, and have a student prepare one email message that includes the following :

Hello from ----- School. We are studying the California Backcountry. We have decided that the things we would enjoy the most about the backcountry are : ………… The things we would enjoy the least about the Backcountry are : ………. Etc.

You only need to enter ‘Rattlesnake’ for example one time even if several people chose that as their number one NOT. Now, send the email to

Check back and see what other classrooms have to say.

4. In closing, ask them to find a tree or bush on the school grounds ( or in their neighborhood as an afterschool assignment ) that has a relative in the Backcountry – a pine tree, an oak tree, a redwood tree, a California poppy, a rose, a lily, or? – and have them draw a picture of it. Ask them to date, name, and sign the picture, and store it in their Expedition Passport folder for future use.