CNPS Education Program

Ocean Elementary School, Arroyo Grande

The stars finally aligned for us. On March 21, 2019, our chapter had the opportunity to work with Bev Gingg and Learning Among the Oaks, a program that has been working to introduce young children to the oak woodland community at the Santa Margarita Ranch, and, more recently, at the Pismo Preserve. The successful program, started in 2005, is now part of the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo and has grown so that it services Ocean View Elementary in Arroyo Grande in addition to Santa Margarita Elementary School, the original ‘home-base’ for the program. Children are recommended by their teachers to be part of the nine-week Oak Ambassador Training Program in which they learn how to serve as a docent and lead hikes in the oak woodland for younger students and their families. The Ambassadors receive comprehensive training about the oak ecosystem through classroom lectures and field visits, and spend time shadowing older Ambassadors as docents so they are prepared to do the same when they become fifth graders.

CNPS participated in one of the classroom trainings by preparing a botany lesson for a group of very motivated Ocean View Elementary fourth graders. We displayed numerous plant specimens representing plant communities of the Pismo Preserve, as well as plants that illustrated different seed dispersal methods and leaf arrangements. We knew that our efforts in preparing the lab were well-received when we heard the excited exclamations as the kids filed into the room. Our favorites: “It smells so good in here!” and “Botany is the best!” It was a whirlwind of an hour, packed with opportunities to learn about xylem tubes through the magic of celery and water cohesion by combining droplets together with a toothpick; discovering the parts of a flower through a keying exercise; smelling and questioning the pungent leaves of some of our common local plants; and, for a few lucky kids, getting ‘stamped’ with the lovely spore print of goldback fern on their clothes. We even had an excellent slideshow to pull it all together, created and presented by the engaging Lindsey Roddick.

Lindsey, Bill Waycott, and Susi Bernstein made up the CNPS team of “Plant Nerds” this time, but we welcome any of you reading this article to join us next spring. There are plans to expand the program to additional schools in the future, and CNPS has been asked to conduct botany lessons for these schools as well. Would you like to join us? There are bright children out there with receptive, spongy little brains. YOU could inspire and help mold them into future conservationists and CNPS members. -Susi

Dana Elementary School, Nipomo

Here are a couple of projects CNPS is currently working on in Nipomo, CA. Last summer, we reported on work with a 5th Grade class at Dana Elementary School, who had helped plant a CA native garden on the north side of the Nipomo County Library. Now, six months later, that garden is flourishing and the librarian, Heidi LoCascio, has asked CNPS to organize a larger planting for the front of the Library. This new garden will be planted by the parents and children who use the library and live in the local community, at the end of April 2019.

The other project involves the current 5th Grade class at Dana Elementary, which is creating a California native and vegetable garden at their school. Two weeks ago, those kids sowed flats of wild flowers seeds (arroyo lupine, tidy tips, and CA poppies), along with lettuce seeds. By the end of April, the students will have prepared the garden soil, and by mid-May their native plant and veggie seedlings will be large enough to transplant into the garden, it is hoped that by the end of the school year during the second week of June, the kids will have flowers and veggies to take home and enjoy.