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  • Writer's pictureIsaac yelchin

Visit and Observation of Zoom Lessons by Marilyn Takahashi Fordney

As an Assistant Director of the Havasi Wilderness Foundation, I was invited by Kelly Kazmirchuk

of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM) to visit an online

science class this month. The moderator was Mr. Hagen-Smith who teaches 4th and 5th grade

science classes. The two guest educators who gave a lesson about oak trees were Claire

Sanders and Zenna of the RCD. At the beginning of this one-hour class, I was introduced as a

guest attendee.

Claire Sanders began with an interactive session relaying technical information about oak trees

and insects to the students. The total number of participants at this teleconference was 30.

Some students raised their hands so they could be called upon to respond. Others typed in

responses. Claire Sanders said she counts southern rainbow trout once a month. This helps to

verify a healthy ecosystem since trees provide oxygen that help fish survive. It was also

emphasized that tree roots stabilize the banks of streams and rivers. When trees die and fall

into the water, they help provide shelter for fish eggs. Trees also provide shade to cool the

water and the tree leaves feed the bugs and macro invertebrates.

Students were asked a question “What are some ways trees help us?” Students verbal and

written responses consisted of help breathe, give fruit, absorb CO2, provide shade, clean the

air, improve water quality, and tree rings tell the age of a tree. It was mentioned that oak trees

take in black carbon and store it.

One part of the program was how the RCD’s current tree planting, caging, and maintenance

(watering) program involves trees that have been damaged due to drought and invasive “bad

bugs” in Topanga State Park. Numbered photographs were shown so this made it easy for

identification when students answered questions. It was emphasized that oak trees are

considered a keystone species. In other words, it is a species on which the ecosystem depends

on and if removed the ecosystem would drastically change. If oak trees are removed, the food

chain (acorns) is disrupted for acorn woodpeckers and squirrels, erosion occurs, and oxygen is

depleted. Metadata is collected and journaled documenting the type of weather, date, time,

and location. A short discussion was about invasive beetles that are not native to a given area

and are very harmful to native species.

Thanks to the RCDSMM for the photos.

The Havasi Wilderness Foundation (HWF) provided funds to RCD to develop and print Place

Based Journals for these field trips to see and learn about nature. Near the end of the session

the journals were put into action. Students were told to draw a tree as seen from the distance

and then to also draw a magnified view of what is part of the tree (leaves and branches). This

session was called Zoom In, Zoom Out. Students then shared many of their drawings via video

so all could enjoy them.

At the end, about 18-20 students joined the Breakout Room monitored by Daniel Rodriguez.

This showed how motivated students had become during this Zoom session and that this type

of structured session keeps the students attentive, interactive, and wanting to learn more. I came away with a feeling that HWF played a part in helping educate many students during this

pandemic in a positive way. A special thank you to Kelly Kazmirchuk of the RCD for giving me

the opportunity to observe this wonderful Zoom teleconference session.

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