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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

VENTURA FWO: Connecting a School to Nature:  Rio Vista Elementary School’s Environmental Career and Awareness Day, 2009

Region 8, April 3, 2009

by Kate Eschelbach, Ventura FWO
On April 3, 2009, staff from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (VFWO) participated in the Rio Vista Elementary School’s Environmental Career and Awareness Day, sponsored by the National Hispanic Environmental Council. After participating in last year's successful event, the Ventura FWO staff had to participate again! 

Rio Vista Elementary School serves grades kindergarten through sixth, and is situated in the Santa Clarita Valley in Canyon Country, California.  VFWO staff participated in multiple activities throughout the day.  Steve Henry, Inez Lanns, Chad Mitcham, Dave Pereksta, Roger Root, and Kate Eschelbach participated in several activities during the course of the day, which involved over 900 students. We had the distinct pleasure of being joined by Lisa Cox, a SCEP student with the Hopper National Wildlife Refuge Complex and California Condor Recovery Program, to help spread the word about careers and California condors, too. 

Chad Mitcham, Dave Pereksta, Roger Root and Kate Eschelbach lead nature hikes in the Santa Clarita riverbed next to the school grounds that featured the use of binoculars, field guides, and the use of a “Let’s Take a Hike” Journal that was developed by the VFWO. The hikers participated in activities such as using their senses, making new (wildlife) friends, and documenting the experience.  Hike leaders were able to spend time in nature with all of the 5th and 6th graders at the school throughout the day and introduce them to bird watching techniques, reinforce hiking etiquette, encourage them to spend time outside for fun, and they even had a chance to show some lucky hikers examples of local amphibians and reptiles up close.

Kate Eschelbach, Inez Lanns and Lisa Cox also helped K- third graders plant donated flats of flowers next to the kindergarten classrooms. These students were asked to follow the lead of our staff in acting out how a plant grows, learn about why plants are important, learn what pollinators are, and sing a song about bumblebees before they got busy planting their plants. The VFWO provided tools and lots of supervision as the students planted their flowers, making a huge impact of beautifying and naturalizing their school grounds by the end of the day!

During the course of the event, particpating staff took turns at the  career fair station in the lunch room. All students were able to peruse the information tables of each environmental organization that attended the event. The USFWS table featured a video of local birds and wildlife created by a local Ventura Audubon Society Chapter member and provided by VFWO’s Dave Pereksta as well as a video of California condors provided by the California Condor Recovery Program.  In addition, the table supplied information on careers with USFWS, giveaways such as USFWS rulers, stickers, pencils and “Let’s Go Outside!” pins, as well as California condor interpretive materials on display, such as condor feathers, a skull, egg and the all time favorite from last year (that again didn’t fail to impress): the life size felt Condor wingspan!

As the concluding assembly for the day took place, all of the staff that participated in this event were extremely pleased to know they reached such a large number of students in a meaningful way in just one day. Many thanks go to the Rio Vista Elementary School teachers, especially Linda Valdes for incorporating us into the event along with the National Hispanic Environmental Council, which organizes and sponsors environmental and career awareness days such as the one at Rio Vista Elementary each year.

 

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov