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This past week, the Havasi Wilderness Foundation’s staff (Marilyn Fordney, Alex Havasi, and Lola West) were greeted by Principal Mark Naulls and instructor, Kim Jones from Thomas Starr King Magnet School. They met with students to celebrate their work at the Malibu Lagoon, a California State Beach that marks the spot where the silt-rich water of Malibu Creek empties into the Pacific Ocean. Each year since 2008-2009, the foundation offers financial support for students to discover the natural beauty of the Southern California coast and to study the wildlife that calls these coastal ecosystems home. Over the coming weeks, we will highlight the flora and fauna that inhabit Malibu Lagoon and share stories told to us by the kids at Thomas Starr King.

Wednesday April 4th, 2018—At first glance, Thomas Starr King looks a lot like your average middle school— groups of children dressed in PE uniforms running across the blacktop, filming class videos, and cracking jokes during break— but look closely and you will find a vibrancy and awareness that is unique to Thomas Starr King. Passageways are colored by student depictions of Van Gogh, the Roman Coliseum, and other intricately painted works. Classrooms are equipped with microscopes, bright maps, laptops and textbooks that encourage multi-dimensional learning. Mrs. Kim Jones and her students invited us into their classroom to share some details about their recent field trip to the Malibu Lagoon. Excited students raised their hands to tell us about the zooplankton they saw squirming through the lenses of their microscopes. Other students were eager to tell us about their first encounter with the herring, a bird rarely seen in the middle of the city.

Students of this Los Angeles magnet school are given the opportunity to learn about agriculture, conservation, and sustainability through inter-disciplinary experiences. They grow an edible garden, compost their food scraps, and take field trips with an emphasis on citizen science.

This edible garden provides students with the opportunity to learn about agriculture and sustainability. Photo Credit: Alex Havasi

As citizen scientists, these students make observations and collect data that increases their awareness of wild spaces in their bioregion. Malibu Lagoon is a saltwater marsh made up of 42 acres of wetlands, native plants, and sandy beach. Pelicans, herring, and over 200 other species of bird can be found picking through the murky marsh waters for their next meal. When the tide is low, secret worlds of brightly colored starfish and sea anemones are revealed.

The Award Ceremony

To mark their achievement in hands-on education, students received scientific participation medals from the Havasi Wilderness Foundation. Our hope is that these medals will encourage students to continue exploring their environment and to keep learning about the intrinsic connection between people and nature. We appreciate the drawings and messages of gratitude for helping to fund their trip and hope to continue this program into the future.

Students From Thomas Starr King Middle School. Photo Credit: Alex Havasi.

Marilyn Fordney and Lola West stand in front of students who have just received their medals. Photo Credit: Alex Havasi

As a thank you to HWF, students presented our founders with an artichoke plant that they raised from seed. Both Alex and Marilyn are excited to add this newest addition to their garden and eagerly await its first harvest!

Students offered HWF hand-written thank you notes.

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