Sharing My Passion Through Outdoor Education

This week, we’re proud to present a guest blog from field educator Chrisha Favors. Thanks for sharing your experience, Chrisha!

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” – John Muir

All my life, I’ve known I wanted to make a difference in this world. I realized early in life that I wanted to be an educator and make a difference through teaching subjects I am passionate about. I have a Bachelor’s in Education and taught music lessons for ten years prior to teaching environmental science. I love outdoor activities like hiking, biking, gardening, traveling, (re)connecting with nature, and studying environmental science and issues in my personal time. I’ve always wanted to share my passion for the outdoors with others, and teaching environmental science seemed like a perfect avenue to segue into.

I started teaching with Laguna Canyon Foundation last year after volunteering with some of their field instructors. LCF’s education program reaches out to Title 1 schools where a high percentage of the students that attend are from low-income families. More often than not, these are kids who don’t get the chance to explore the wilderness or see representation in the outdoors. While volunteering with their educators, I got a first-hand experience on how much diversity they were bringing into the outdoors and how important that mission meant to them (and me). I was in complete awe of their environmental science programs and I knew I needed to be a part of their mission. Not only do they support biodiversity in nature, but they also promote diversity in nature through their education programs.

I’m a firm believer in diversity, inclusion, and representation in the outdoors, and LCF fosters that in their education programs. We all deserve a chance to be closer to nature. We all deserve a chance to climb through an ancient cave, learn about local fauna and flora, to realize our relationship with nature and how much it provides for us. Our socioeconomic status should not determine the contact we have with nature, but unfortunately, sometimes it does. Most of the kids on our field trips are experiencing their first time in the wilderness. 

My first hike with LCF was at the Willow Staging area with a group of fourth graders. I remember the excitement for my first time leading a group of students through the wilderness. I must admit, I was a bit nervous as well! Eventually, the bus crept around the bend on Laguna Canyon Road and I heard the roar of bus exhaust pipes and chatter of eager kids. We gave our safety talk on the bus, marched the kids off the bus, put them into groups, and then headed out into the wilderness. The excitement from the students was palpable. You could see the pure joy they got from being outdoors in the coastal sage scrub habitat with the wild animals and plants. Seeing rabbits and lizards, and smelling white sage in the wild are spectacular moments for the kids! Those feelings of joy and connection in the outdoors are innate in us all, and we all need an opportunity to experience it to fully appreciate it.

We live a symbiotic relationship with nature, and teaching the young generation to be more aware of that fact is one of my key teachings. When out on the trails, I teach groups of students the NGSS standards, and in addition, I also teach the students to be future stewards of our planet (unbeknownst to the kiddos). I teach them to respect the Earth by picking up trash on the trails, admiring the creatures we see on the trail, appreciating biodiversity in the outdoors, and questioning them on why dogs aren’t allowed on the trails. We need more people who care about our planet and challenge our human practices. Our future is reliant on the youth, and I take pride in being able to teach them, spend time on the trails with them, cultivate a sense of (re)connection to nature, and play a small role in helping our future planet survive.

I’ve had such a great year teaching with LCF. Some of my favorite days are in the wilderness with the kiddos. We’ve enjoyed tidepooling days at Crystal Cove State Park, exploring caves at Willow in Laguna Coast Wilderness, field journaling at Dilley in Laguna Coast, butterfly garden walks at Aliso and Wood Canyon, and bird watching at Barbara’s Lake. 

As the year winds down and we finish teaching our last field trips, I’m reminded of why I do this type of work. I’m passionate about the outdoors, and teaching environmental science gives me the opportunity to share my love of the outdoors, especially with the youth. I’ve realized over the course of my career that the more passionate I am about a subject, the more it inspires my students. My passions have been an inspiration for my work, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to share and inspire through education.