On the Ranch
By Education Coordinator Paula Harvey
On a recent field trip, I asked students to stand or sit alone in one spot for 10 minutes, with nothing in their hands, using their senses to experience the area—being absolutely silent. Afterwards, they were given another 10 minutes to write their thoughts about the experience in their nature journals.
We came back together, then I told them to find a spot to sit and write a poem. One young man looked askance at me and said in a challenging voice, “A POEM?” as if horrified at the idea. I gave him my very best, tried-and-tested “teacher look” and said, “Yes, is that a problem?” He reluctantly sat down under a large blue oak.
...they get excited, tap into their curiosity, make discoveries, realize their creativity, find their empathy, and connect with their environment...
When they were done, the students shared their poems with friends. I asked if anyone wanted to share to the whole group. Several volunteered and were so very proud of their work.
I was, once again, reminded of why I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my job as an environmental educator. I have the privilege of guiding them as they get excited, tap into their curiosity, make discoveries, realize their creativity, find their empathy, and connect with their environment.
That was the last activity of the day and we started walking back to the main road. The reluctant young man came up to me and asked if he could read his poem. After he did, he smiled proudly and said, “That is the best thing I have ever written! I think I want to write more poetry.”
Tejon Ranch Conservancy’s Education Program offers field trips and customized programs for high school and college faculty, and students. Students get to experience a unique opportunity when they come out on the Ranch and learn. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Their frequent complaint? Not enough time; they want to stay longer.
For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing students get excited and inspired as they experience the protected wild lands of Tejon Ranch, then realize and embrace the responsibility of being the stewards of this planet. And it starts with bringing students and teachers outside, to learn, to consider the possibilities, to experience wild places.
If you believe, as we do, that outdoor education develops a deeper sense of learning about and appreciation for the natural world as it relates to everyday subjects, then please help us bring more students here.
By Scot Pipkin
Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), with its peeling red bark and intricate patterned branches, is both striking and sturdy. The fruits are often bright red and apple-shaped, thus the common name "manzanita" meaning "little apple." Anyone throughout the West who has tried bushwhacking in manzanita country has certainly developed a healthy respect for the plant’s toughness.
the power of focus
Science Journaling Workshop for Educators
Story and Photos by Paula Harvey
Artist, naturalist, and educator, Jack “John Muir” Laws conducted a two-day professional development training in March in science journaling that ties in with the Next Generation Science Standards. Nearly one hundred California educators gathered on the Tejon Ranch and enjoyed the magnificent beauty of Campo Bonito in the San Joaquin Valley.
Nature/science journaling enhances the student’s ability to observe and study the natural world. While developing their drawing and writing skills, students engage in pure scientific discovery.
The Conservancy worked with Kristen Urquidez of Kern High School District, who organized to send 49 district teachers, while California State University, Bakersfield’s Department of Teacher Education sent teacher candidates who are currently participating in the Kern Rural Teacher Residency Program.
The workshop was not only a relaxing experience, but inspiring as well. Ultimately, I really enjoyed the “I notice, I wonder, it reminds me of” way to promote student thinking and observational strategies. In general, the workshop inspired me to take time to “smell the flowers” and show my students to do that as well. Observation is more than snapping a picture of the object; this is a very important concept for students in this generation.
Chelsea Lancaster, Kern High School District
I think this was one of the most incredible trainings I have attended ever. …At the end of the day, I wrote in my journal a few questions. How many people pass by this beauty and not even give it a thought? Why do we not take more time in our own lives to do this for ourselves? How was I so very blessed to experience this and how can I possibly do it again? How did God manage to make so much beauty? …I looked back at myself, I was so scared to do this activity, I literally turned my book to the back, upside down, so it looked like I was using it correctly and did my work in the back of the book so the front would stay nice for my daughter to use someday because she is better at drawing and journaling. Now I can show this to my students and show them my insecurities and that they are not alone when they have insecurities of their own. Amazing! Wonderful! An absolute Do Again experience!
Sherrie Hill, Kern High School District
This program and other education-related programs are developed by Tejon Ranch Conservancy’s Education Coordinator Paula Harvey. Paula may be reached at (661) 248-2400, extension 102, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Closing in on the Goal
Most people choose to give out of the goodness of their hearts. Though we say it’s for “education,” it’s not easy to know what that really means. Last year, 25-year-old Hannah Savage was working on a biology degree at California State University, Bakersfield, when she applied for a summer internship with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy.
We’ll let Hannah tell you in her own words what it means when you give.
“Last summer I had the opportunity to intern with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy. My internship was incredibly valuable. It gave me hands-on experience. It introduced me to other biologists. It encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree.
"I am completing my bachelor’s degree in biology right now. Despite being almost done with my degree, I have had very little experience outside the classroom. This internship gave me much needed experience. I was able to put into practice many of the things I had learned over the course of my degree.
"It also gave me the opportunity to meet other biologists. This was valuable because prior to the internship I knew very few people in the field of biology. It’s hard to see yourself as a biologist when you don’t know anyone already doing it. Now, having met and worked with other biologists, I can actually see myself as one.
"The internship gave me some ideas about what careers I could pursue in the future. It is also the reason I am in the process of applying to graduate schools.
I am so incredibly thankful that I was able to intern with the Conservancy. I learned so much, met so many wonderful people, had many opportunities to enjoy beautiful California, and acquired direction for my future.”
There are so many more Hannahs out there, just waiting for practical, real-world experience. In addition to summer internships, we invite teaching staff from local high schools and colleges to learn how to use the out-of-doors to enhance learning and curriculum. These teachers have the opportunity to make learning far more experiential with even greater retention.
We are SO close to meeting our grant challenge. With recent pledges we are nearly there—less than $4,000 to go by April 15th. Even a small contribution will make a big difference now. Please help us make that difference!
Background photos: Teachers on Tejon Ranch