Thanks to a grant from the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy, the Santa Lucia Conservancy (SLC) educated 452 students from 24 classes in watershed structure, function, and ecology so far in the 2022-23 school year. Our educators created a brand new course, “watershed structure and function,” and developed a former “guided nature walk” into a “habitat exploration” class at our new Rancho Canada education site along the Carmel River. We also incorporated watershed concepts into existing classes including “redwood ecology” and “owls in Potrero Canyon.”
During the introduction of each class, the educators define and break down vocabulary words for the day. Students learn terms such as biotic, abiotic, condensation, and interdependence. We incorporated nature journaling into many of our existing classes and provided paper, clipboards, and art materials. As classes walked the trails, our educators paused often to focus on activities that teach children to become keen observers, encouraging students to record their experience and express themselves through sketches, notes, leaf rubbings, and poems.
“They are given the opportunity to truly be immersed as they stand in the middle of a redwood grove and look up, listen to the creek and bird song, inspect owl pellets, track mammal prints, and find salamanders under logs,” said Kirsten Stember, lead environmental educator for SLC.
Classes that go through the Santa Lucia Conservancy’s Environmental Education Program explore what it means to have a healthy ecosystem, how native plants create homes for wildlife, and learn skills in scientific observation and outdoor exploration. Children gain an understanding of the watershed in which they live and an appreciation for the plants and animals that inhabit it. Perhaps most importantly, students are encouraged to slow down and connect more deeply with nature, providing mental health benefits and planting in their minds the seed of a conservation ethic that will grow as they do.