Students Make More Nature and Science Connections through New Environmental Education Pathways Project in Sonoma County
By LandPaths Staff
February 5, 2024
Students Make New Connections With
Environmental Education Pathways
On a brisk and sunny day at Glen Oaks Ranch, 3rd graders from Flowery Elementary School chat merrily as they hike along a trail. On their right, a creek burbles and gurgles with winter rainwater. On their left is a beautiful oak woodland. The students are on a school field trip with LandPaths’ In Our Own Backyard (IOOBY) environmental education program. And this is their science classroom for the day.
As they walk, their teacher Maestro Campbell, and LandPaths’ Education Field Specialists Mineaux and Jackie, ask the students “I wonder” questions about a rotting log and a rockpile, all related to today’s lesson objectives: “What makes up a habitat and the behaviors within that habitat that help an organism survive.”
At one point, Maestro Campbell prompts students to think back to an in-class lesson Living with Lions earlier in the week with Audubon Canyon Ranch.
“How does food, water, shelter, and space apply to mountain lions?”
You can practically see the lightbulbs clicking above the student’s heads – their brains making lightning fast connections to the previous lesson. They enthusiastically share information about mountain lion territory, deer populations, competition for resources and how everything is connected.
Environmental Education Across Multiple Grades
Everything is connected is also an excellent way into understanding the origins of the new Environmental Education Pathways Project, an initiative of the Sonoma County Environmental Education Collaborative (SEEC) with support from Community Foundation Sonoma County. The project’s mission is to increase the impact and reach of outdoor education with a focus on underserved communities. The project starts with our strengths, the County’s robust network of environmental education providers. It then builds collaboration, enabling our individual programs to layer student learning over years. Students make more connections, deepening their understanding.
Ultimately, the Pathways Project is about creating generations of informed earth stewards.
LandPaths is proud to be a founding member of the SEEC collaborative, which has been around for more than 20 years. SEEC unites organizations that provide environmental education in Sonoma County to collaborate in community building, share knowledge, and increase access to outdoor education.
In an exciting development, a generous $3 million grant from the Riddell family, long time friends of LandPaths and the former stewards of Riddell Preserve, enables local organizations to fulfill a dream of working together, in a structured way, to create a continuum of environmental education across multiple grades.
The newly launched Pathways Project provides students with access to at least four high-quality, standards-based environmental education touchpoints between transitional kindergarten through sixth grade.
Pathways in Action
For example, students might go on environmental education field trips with Point Blue Conservation Science in kindergarten and then Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation in third grade. In the fourth grade, those same students might receive IOOBY programming from LandPaths, and in fifth grade those same students might go on a field trip with Sonoma Water.
These environmental education touchpoints are provided by SEEC organizations and grant recipients, such as those listed below. Ultimately, each grade will be provided with a touchpoint from a participating SEEC member organization. And this creates a scaffolding unique to the school that builds upon the success of each preceding year.
“The lightbulb moment at Glen Oaks Ranch on the IOOBY field trip is the epitome of the Pathways Project,” says Christie Clark, Environmental Education Pathways Lead, a position currently housed under LandPaths. Christie acts as a coordinator of the project between the schools and the grantee organizations. “Flowery Elementary students are making connections from one program to the another, building upon their learning and experiences not only across grades but also with multiple programs in one grade.”
Which means that for these students at Flowery Elementary School, this experience at Glen Oaks Ranch is ideally is just one stone on a metaphorical path across the gurgling creek, that will take them from one end to the other, learning wonderful lessons in the outdoors along the way!
Participating signed-on Elementary Schools – These are signed-on, committed schools that are already participating in the working group collaboration with organizations.
Albert F. Biella, Helen Lehman, Luther Burbank, Steele Lane, Meadow View, Roseland Creek, Wright Charter, Flowery, Sassarini, Guerneville, and McDowell.
Pre-Pathways Elementary Schools – These are schools working towards becoming a signed-on Pathway School for the next school year : Bellevue, Robert L. Stevens, John Reed, Cinnabar, El Verano, Monte Rio, Healdsburg, Jefferson.
LandPaths is one of more than a dozen grant recipients for the 2023 – 2024 school year, a list that also includes: Audubon Canyon Ranch, Friends of the Petaluma River, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, LandPaths, Pepperwood Foundation, Point Blue Conservation Science, Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Water, and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.
Learn more at https://sonomacountyee.org/pathways-project/
Thank you to the following partner for supporting this project
Christie Clark, Environmental Education Pathways Lead
" Students make connections from one program to the another. They build learning and experiences across grades and across multiple programs in one grade. "