Future Stewards of the Earth: McDowell Elementary School Students Get Outside with IOOBY

Category: Blog, IOOBY, Rooting Youth in Nature, Youth Programs

By LandPaths Staff

March 3, 2020

The climate crisis means that a sense of our interconnection with a healthy natural world has never been more crucial. Ideally, this connection and stewardship starts in childhood, building from there.

This conviction lies at the core of our In Our Own Backyard (IOOBY), LandPaths’ environmental education program, which was established more than 20 years ago. We’re excited to announce our newest partnership with McDowell Elementary School in Petaluma! This school year, 113 McDowell students, from second to fifth grade, have connected with nearby open spaces thanks to IOOBY.

For many, it’s their first time exploring these places.

But don’t take our word for it! Just listen to what Mark Mortensen, a 4th grade teacher at McDowell has to say:

“My students love IOOBY! The four pillars of Exploration and DiscoveryHabitatsWatersheds, and Stewardship blend so well with our science lessons and with other programs in which our class is involved. By connecting to local natural spaces, my students are more likely to feel a sense of stewardship that will last well beyond their school years. I only wish that all students could enjoy and benefit from this program. Our planet needs as many enlightened stewards as it can get!”

On a field trip to Open Field Farm, a diversified, organic farm on the outskirts of Petaluma, students learned about how energy and matter flow through ecosystems, discovered beneficial insects in the garden, and had solo time to journal and reflect in their own sit spot in nature. This year marks the first time LandPaths has partnered with Open Field Farm to welcome IOOBY students. Thank you to farmers Seth and Sara James for generously sharing their inspired, nature-connected farm with students!

“This is more fun than our park” said one student as she scrambled up Open Field Farm’s famous oak tree.

“This is more fun than anything in my life!” declared another student. “I want to come back every day!”

Students went to Ellis Creek for their next field trip. They toured the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, where they discovered how wastewater gets recycled and creates wildlife habitat. Later in the day, they sketched waterbirds at the facility’s ponds with LandPaths’ volunteers Teresa and Miles Tuffli of I’m Birding Right Now.  

Over the school year, McDowell students (as well as students at all 16 schools across Sonoma County that partner with IOOBY) will experience four field days total, giving them a remarkable amount of hours outside, exploring nature through the lens of science standards and stewardship!

The fruitful partnership between LandPaths and McDowell Elementary came about when Youth Programs Manager Jamie Nakama met McDowell teacher Angela Werner at the Earth Day rally in Courthouse Square in 2019. As they say, the rest is history!

“It’s been exhilarating for our McDowell students and teachers to be a part of the IOOBY and to form connections with its incredible team. We have chosen nature names, written in journals, and shared our experiences within our groups. We have experienced the calmness of sit spots, the excitement of bugs in water, and hunted for various parts of plants. We have observed animals in their natural habitat, and learned about recycling water. Soon we’ll do our part in making a difference in our community as young stewards on our final IOOBY field trip to Ellis Creek. Thank you IOOBY for the positive memories and contagious enthusiasm you have created for our McDowell Monarchs. We truly have taken in the beauty and excitement of what is in our very own backyards.”  

Angela Werner, teacher at McDowell Elementary School

Want to learn more about IOOBY and how you can bring it to your Sonoma County elementary school? Contact Jamie Nakama at [email protected] or (707) 544-7284 ext. 115


Angela Werner, teacher at McDowell Elementary School

" Thank you IOOBY for the positive memories and contagious enthusiasm you have created for our McDowell Monarchs. We truly have taken in the beauty and excitement of what is in our very own backyards. "

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