Teaching How to Protect What We Love

While participating in Laguna Canyon Foundation’s education program last week, a third grade class, hiking along the Lake Trail in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, could barely keep silent as they spotted a bunny. Their hands went up as they flexed their fingers, signaling that an animal was near. They knew to whisper and keep as quiet as they could, so as not to frighten the animal and allow their fellow students to observe. The bunny stood very still, almost impossible to see, for just moments, and then scurried off behind the bushes.

From September through June each year, at several staging areas in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s education staff hosts up to 80 field trips for Title One elementary school students. With the support of grants and our generous donors, more than 4,500 students get the opportunity to explore and learn about our wonderful open spaces every year. These children have seen many inhabitants of the canyon, including rabbits, deer, snakes, gophers, lizards, roadrunners, coyotes, and raptors and other birds.

Last week’s bunny sighting was the perfect opportunity to learn about camouflage and adaptations. The students played a “Predator and Prey” game under the 133 bridge, having fun and learning about survival, before moving on to Barbara’s Lake. Along the way the students smelled white sage and learned about the importance of coast live oak to the survival of the Native American Acjahemen tribe.

At Barbara’s Lake, now dry, they learned about the drought and water conservation. Students were asked how each of us could save water. Seeing the parched lake, the concerned students had many suggestions: take shorter showers, don’t let the water run in the bathroom and kitchen, and use any leftover drinking water for plants and pets rather than just throwing it down the drain.

Tailored per grade level, Laguna Canyon Foundation’s programs teach students about art in nature, adaptations, geology, nutrition, and, of course, conservation and preservation. In the midst of a beautiful hike, children learn to pick up trash, stay on the trails and respect the animals’ home.

After pointing out to the class many plants along the trails, the educator asked, “What is a native plant?”

The attentive students thought for a bit, then one student, Samantha, raised her hand. “It’s a plant that belongs here.”

Indeed – and that is what Laguna Canyon Foundation’s South Coast Wilderness Education Program aims to instill: a sense of belonging. Each of us – along with the plants and animals of the canyon – belong here. This is all of our land to care for, share, and pass on to the next generation.

Thank you to our generous education supporters, including the Cultural Vision Fund and the AHE/CI Trust (both in memory of Elizabeth E. Fleming), the Annenberg Foundation, the Marisla Foundation, the Schlinger Foundation, and Marcia Tilker.

Interested in supporting the South Coast Wilderness Education Program? Donate today, or email us for more information.

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