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For over a decade, financial support from HWF and other organizations have helped fund environmental education programs organized by the Santa Monica Mountains chapter of the Resource Conservation Districts (RCDSMM). Throughout the academic year, RCDSMM coordinates and hosts wilderness walks and in-class lectures that are founded on the principles of nature and environmental conservation. Depending on their location, elementary-aged children visit either Topanga State Park, Malibu Lagoon, or the Sepulveda Basin.

Each year, the Havasi Wilderness Foundation visits the schools and student recipients who benefit from RCD programming. This year, we visited seven schools across Los Angeles and Ventura County— Walnut Elementary, Watts Learning Center, Frank Del Olmo Elementary, Vena Avenue Elementary, Lemay Street Elementary, Thomas Starr King Elementary, and Kester Magnet School. Most of these schools are situated in densely-populated urban environments and with the exception of backyards and school playgrounds, the children in attendance have limited access to truly open spaces.

To mark their achievement in hands-on education, students receive HWF scientific participation medals during an awards ceremony. No matter where the school is located, the energy that permeates the classrooms whenever HWF Founders Alex Havasi and Marilyn Fordney visit is one of excitement and eagerness. Before the ceremony begins, children share stories from their experiences at one of three outdoor learning spaces. Watching kids light up when they talk about plankton and microscopes or the numerous animals that they encountered during their field trip reminds all of us at HWF just how important outdoor education is. After all, elementary-aged children represent the next generation of environmental stewards and encouraging a sense of connection to nature is vital for the future health of our planet.

Now that school is out for the summer, we are excited to share what students across Los Angeles and Ventura County learned from their time with RCDSMM’s environmental educators in their own words. This week, we’re highlighting stories and student reflections about time spent at the Sepulveda Basin, Malibu Lagoon, or Topanga State Park. Follow our upcoming blogs and check out our Facebook page to see what observations these young minds are making when they get outside and explore their world!

Thank you, Samara, for sharing your thoughts about the #SepulvedaBasin! While HWF didn’t build the wildlife reserve, we are happy to share in your enjoyment of it. No matter where you are in the world, nature in some form or another exists around you. Like Samara says, “nature isn’t just one thing, it’s everything.” Be sure to take care of the plants and animals that live among you because this planet belongs to more than just humans.

On a recent trip to the #MalibuLagoon, Bryan Martinez from #LemayElementary learned about the extensive food chain, which begins with plant life and ends with animal life. On the first level of the food chain are producers like plants, who make their own food. Plants are followed by the primary consumers that feed on producers. Then come the carnivores that eat herbivores, which succeed the carnivores that eat both herbivores and other carnivores. Rounding out the top of the food chain are apex predators, meat-eating mammals that don’t have any predators themselves. Polar bears, orcas, tigers, and crocodiles are among the apex predators alive today. 

All living things require energy to survive. Plants get their energy from sunlight, which they use to make their own food out of water and carbon dioxide (in a process known as photosynthesis) and bacteria “eat” by recycling nature’s waste products! For animals and humans, food is our primary source of energy, but we can also extract energy from water, sunlight, and oxygen. In an ecosystem, all the organisms that depend on one another in order to eat form a food chain.

Jonathan and Ellery also wanted to share about their trip to Malibu Lagoon. This LA county wetland is made up of 110 acres of wetlands, native plants, and sandy beach. Each year, over 200 species of bird pass through the marsh to “rest, feed, and nest.”

In supporting elementary education, HWF hopes is to inspire children to learn about and explore their environment and to nurture the essential connection between people and nature. Keep your eyes on Havasiwf.org and read more student stories and animal blogs this week! Tomorrow, we’re highlighting crabs, one of LA County student’s most-mentioned crustaceans!

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