SFSU Magazine Fall/Winter '04 Alumni and Friends: Wild Science


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Alumni & FriendsAlumnus Chris Giorni is stretched out on the ground and holding a bearded dragon in one hand. His cap says “Mr. Science.”

Wild Science
Chris Giorni (M.A., '97) rarely rides alone in his tree frog-emblazoned pickup truck. On any given day his traveling companions can include a bearded dragon, desert tortoise or Burmese python. For the past five years, as head of Tree Frog Treks educational company, Giorni has taken his mobile menagerie to Bay Area schools and day care centers on a continuing mission to open young eyes to the wonders of the natural world.

"It's important to reach them when they're young," says Giorni, whose company aims to inspire future naturalists. "Children get turned on to nature just by being exposed to it."

A group of four-year olds work together to hold a 16-foot python He's a good example. Growing up in San Francisco, Giorni found bliss in family camping trips, hikes and visits to the Randall Museum. His father was a chemist ("We'd have fun blowing stuff up.") His mother, a professional actress, got him into community theater and television commercials. Both parents have played a role in Giorni's success as "head frog." The job requires a scientist who can connect with an audience.

"Chris has one of those personalities that grabs people's attention," says his former professor, John Hafernik, chair of biology. "He has an infectious enthusiasm for what he's doing. He's an excellent teacher because he makes things fun."

Giorni says his alma mater provided an excellent training ground for his career: "State has an awesome science program. Every student is treated as if [he or she] were getting a Ph.D."

After graduation, Giorni went on to teach at both Bay Area elementary and high schools and grew increasingly frustrated with the curriculum. "There aren't enough hands-on science projects and a new focus on standardized testing isn't keeping kids engaged," he says.

Both vertebrates and invertebrates alike continue to help Giorni spread the word about the importance of protecting the environment. In addition to 25 human employees who help with teaching, 50 rescued and relocated reptiles and amphibians, from the red-slider turtles to one threatened prehensile-tailed skink,remain on call at Tree Frog Treks' Hayes Street headquarters, ready to do their part.

For more information: www.treefrogtreks.com