June 11th, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 10
We concluded our incredible program by setting up interactive stations to represent the many lessons learned along the river. Roles were reversed and students became teachers at each station by explaining what they learned. Stations included our watershed model, microscopes, plants from the Salinas River, animal tracking, using a compass, topographic maps, rocks from the river, binoculars, conventional vs. organic foods and the many properties of soil. After visiting all stations kids had the opportunity to answer questions correctly and win a prize from the mystery box. Everyone had a blast participating in a “birding” activity designed to remind students of the many obstacles in our world birds must navigate around in order to survive. Although we are sad so see the program come to a close, we certainly enjoyed our final day of Learning Along the River.
May 30th, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 9
Students traveled to beautiful Dancing Deer Farm in Templeton to experience farm life and taste test the difference between conventional and organically grown fruits and veggies. We all enjoyed a discussion and activity in the garden with local farmer John DeRosier that reminded us how much work goes into planting and harvesting seeds. Kids got the chance to hang out by Dancing Deer Farm’s Tee-Pee while sampling produce purchased from the local grocery store and comparing flavor to farmers market fruits and veggies. Overall it was a fantastic field trip. Thank you Dancing Deer Farm!
May 29th, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 8
Ken Oster from the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) joined us along the river to teach the students all about soil. Ken provided exciting experiments that reminded students of the many important functions soil provides. Water infiltration was examined by isolating a small area of soil and seeing how long it took for one inch of water to soak through. Recycling of organic material was discussed and students were tasked with finding as much compostable material as possible in a short amount of time. Kids had a blast with the earth worms Ken brought to describe their impact on soil health. Students then observed the soils ability to filter dirty water. They had fun testing the shear strength of different soil types by seeing how hard one had to squeeze or stomp on a soil clod until it broke. We ended the afternoon discussing the three particle sizes in soil (sand, silt, clay) and practiced testing soil texture by feel using varying samples from the Salinas River Bed.
May 19th, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 7
This week was all about geology and Earth’s history. We had the pleasure of welcoming Docent and Geology Instructor John McCabe. John brought fossils found in the Salinas River area and encouraged students to examine and be “detectives” because rocks are the clues to Earth’s history. By asking questions and putting some thought into it, students learned that the entire area was once under the ocean! Our next activity included placing certain events on a timeline of Earth’s history to get a better understanding of geologic time. Also, we were hit with a big heat wave this week and decided to take advantage of it by making basic solar ovens at the beginning of class and by the end we had fresh baked cookies to enjoy along the river.
May 7th, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 6
After two weeks of Spring Break, we were back in action in our outdoor classroom last Wednesday. Our lesson this week was all about topographic mapping. Working together, students completed a mapping activity where they matched profiles and written descriptions of structures to the correct contour diagram. Groups were given USGS maps of San Miguel and a list of features to find and circle such as the map name, scale, date, latitude, longitude, etc. Kids got creative as they built their own three dimensional topographic map out of sand! Once completed, they sketched a topographical version of their sand map and discussed where water might flow. Each mound was then covered in plastic wrap and with a spray bottle simulating rain they were able to see where water flows and if their hypothesis was correct. This week we also had a very special guest from the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County.
Here is what Janice had to say about her visit to our outdoor classroom:
“On April 30, I had the pleasure of conducting a site visit with the Learning Along the River program which The Community Foundation SLO County had recently funded. As the 15 students from Lillian Larson Elementary gathered, the excitement grew. We walked down into the Salinas riverbed and everyone was full of energy and ready to explore their environment. Kudos go to educators Nick and Amy who had put together an engaging and interactive lesson for the day. Learning how to interpret topographic maps and the relationship to the watershed is no easy task. The exercises made each team think, interpret and communicate with each other in a way that made it stick! Thanks to all for letting me join in on the fun. The Community Foundation is proud to have supported this new environmental education program for youth.”
April 10th, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 5
April 7th, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 4
This week we had the pleasure of discussing riparian fauna with local wildlife biologist Brian Dugas from Terra Verde Environmental Consulting. He brought some amazing skulls, birds nests, owl pellets and even a grey fox! The kids examined the skulls and considered adaptations each animal has to successfully compete for resources. After the discussion we hiked along the Salinas River to find evidence of riparian fauna and chat about human impact on those creatures and their habitats. Students had the chance to peak through binoculars to get a closer look at our avian friends. We made sure to leave only footprints and take only photographs to help preserve this awesome place.
March 31, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 3
Due to the much needed rain event this week we were unable to go to our outdoor classroom. That didn’t stop us from having a blast in the gym discussing riparian flora, examining plant samples under a microscope and enjoying a really fun activity! Kids were divided into groups of three or four and given a sheet of paper with a river drawn through it. They got the chance to design their dream waterfront property- money was no object but they had to include a place to live, a place to get their food, a place for their garbage to go, three different plants and three different animals. What they didn’t know is their “rivers” were connected and pollution from each property was carried downstream to the next groups properties. They mastered the understanding that we are all part of the same ecosystem and what we do on our properties affects our neighbors and even people miles away.
March 21, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 2
We started this week in the classroom exploring our aquifer model kit. The kids were able to see a visual demonstration of the water cycle and how precipitation can infiltrate in to the ground and become groundwater. The aquifer model is a great way to show how water percolates through different types of material. Next, we traveled to our outdoor classroom along the Salinas River. Here, Margy Lindquist of NRCS gave the kids an informative talk with a hands on demonstration of soil erosion. It was so great to see the kids interacting and engaging in question and answer sessions! Next week we will be exploring Riparian Flora.
March 17th, 2014
Learning Along the River, Week 1
This week the kids got their “feet wet” learning along the river about watersheds. They mastered their understanding of point and non point pollution while interacting with the watershed model. Students then walked the river to learn basic mapping skills, note evidence of animal activity and sketch vegetation to get a better understanding of their place in our watershed and the importance of maintaining watershed health. We can’t wait for next week! (photos courtesy of Michael Utin)