On a recent education hike at James Dilley Preserve, Marco, a 5th grade student, impressed one of our Field Educators by arriving with his Field Journal from the prior year’s hike. In it, he had continued his observations and drawings about nature and the open space. This was something we encourage: be inquisitive; be creative; enjoy nature – wherever you are – and write down your thoughts, sketch what you see, and make notes on what you want to research.
Since 2006, Laguna Canyon Foundation has been partnering with several Santa Ana schools to bring second through fifth graders to the South Coast Wilderness. In the open space, a living classroom, students learn from a different angle, in the fresh air and among native flora and fauna.
Our partnerships have grown. In 2017, we expanded to 12 partner Title 1 elementary schools. Using NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) to ensure an informative and enjoyable outing for both students and teachers alike, Laguna Canyon Foundation tailors the hikes for each grade level:
Second Grade: Art in Nature
Third Grade: Adapting and Surviving
Fourth Grade: Let’s Create a Habitat
Fifth Grade The Power of Observation
There are several unique aspects of our education program.
- Free of charge to the schools. Laguna Canyon Foundation hosts, at no cost to the schools, up to 85 school trips per year, serving more than 4,500 students. Through the generous donations of our supporters and grantors we are able to cover costs of busing, supplies and staff.
- Students return each year. We are grateful for the commitment of the principals, teachers and parents who ensure the success of our program, which is designed so that each student – throughout their elementary school journey – may return from their second grade year through their fifth grade year. We build on the life sciences, growing and developing future environmentalists, conservationists and scientists.
- Our education staff are trained field educators. Prior to leading a group of students, our field educators, already experienced naturalists in our canyon, repeatedly walk the specific trails we will be using for our hikes with the students. They know to point out certain plants on the trails…where a woodrat nest is…where a fossil is. While they can answer many, many of the students’ questions, they also know that they are scientists too, learning together alongside the students on each and every hike.
- Each year, we “adapt.” With each outing as a new experience, we see ways to improve. We take input from our grantors, teachers, parents, students, field educators and volunteers to make each year better than the next.
As one teacher said, “Laguna Canyon Foundation’s education hike is often the only time my students get out in nature and, after experiencing it myself, I am grateful to see how seriously the field instructors take their responsibility. They make it really special for my kids.”
Learn more about our programs at lagunacanyon.org/education.