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."
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