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  • Writer's pictureIsaac yelchin

Thank You Kelly

Our Havasi Wilderness Foundation began working with the RCDSMM in March, 2010 when Stephen Vodantis was the Education Program Supervisor. Then Kelly arrived in Spring 2018. She has been a godsend to our educational program. Her charisma and love of bringing nature to students made her a joy to work with. The students loved her and would always pay very close attention to all her teachings. Kelly began scheduling elementary school field trips to Topanga State Park, Malibu Lagoon, as well as to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. Here, students were able to experience nature and learn by doing. Kelly organized bird watching with binoculars, and microorganism identification with microscopes. Some of the students that came on these field trips had never been to the ocean, and were able to learn so much by experiencing Malibu lagoon, seeing, hearing, and feeling the nature. Kelly was able to bring her passion to everyone around her, and gave thousands of students an opportunity to learn and be inspired in a way they may never have experienced.

A flash of brilliant green and a high pitch peep made the whole class turn on their heels. Kelly points out a hummingbird fluttering right above the group's heads. Binoculars shot to eyes, Ooo’s and Aaah’s could be heard around the lagoon as the students took in the beautiful hummingbird. Activating as many senses as possible helped the students remember the fine details and become enthralled with wildlife. I have heard many of the students say that they will grow up to be scientists just like Kelly.

I worked with Kelly as one of the educators for about two years, and in this time I learned so much about myself, as well as about never giving up. The pandemic shut down all the programs, as students couldn’t take buses out to our field programs. However, this did not even slow Kelly down one bit! With the swiftness of Hermes, she contacted school districts and teachers across Los Angeles and organized a whole suite of online education programs. Videos and interactive lessons were put together perfectly and jam packed with great information. She created with Place Based Journals that were published and given to students to do their work while online. These kept the students focused and busy. Kelly managed to turn a hard situation into a positive and was able to reach record numbers of students through online video conference learning. While it wasn’t as great as really seeing an osprey in person, the students were able to see a closeup of its claws and feathers from the comfort of their own home. They were able to solve the mystery of predatory bird talons just from a few of Kelly's hints. We and the students thank you for your tenacity and brains!

These pictures are from the farewell potluck hosted to say thank you to Kelly for being the keystone in the environmental education program, and for being a wonderful person. Many educators and friends all joined in to give loving funny speeches for Kelly. It is with our whole heart that we thank Kelly for all the hard work she has done for students and for the planet.

Isaac Yelchin is foremost a herpetologist. He studies lizards, frogs, newts, and the like. Specifically, he spends all day and night thinking about what it is like to be an animal. What are the animals thinking about? What is their perspective? When he should be working, he sits and stares at his pet lizard asking himself these questions.

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