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EDUCATION

Education

Education Strategy

In 2015, The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) met with stakeholders, partners, and collaborators to create the Conservancy’s first-ever Education Strategic Plan.  This is a five-year plan (Jan. 2016 – Dec. 2020) that will steer the Conservancy’s approach to our environmental education programs within the watershed, including–but not limited to–the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve.  We believe the Plan will ensure that our programs are as engaging and effective as our organizational capacity allows.

If you would like to download a copy of the executive summary, please click on the document file.  If you would like a hard copy of the executive summary, please contact:

Education Manager Simon Breen
email: simon@escondidocreek.org | phone: (619)481-2661

TECC Education Strategic Plan 2016-2020 – Executive Summary

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Trout in the Classroom

Steelhead trout were once abundant in southern California, but their populations have plummeted due to urban development, dams, and degraded water quality conditions.  The Conservancy has a dream to one day repopulate Escondido Creek with steelhead, but for that to happen, the water quality of the creek needs to improve.

This is a highly engaging program where 3rd-8th grade students raise trout from eggs to juvenile fish and then release them in an approved lake. As students care for the fish, they come to realize the importance of clean water and healthy ecosystems. We are confident that the environmental stewards who participate in this program will help to one day make our dream of trout in Escondido Creek a reality.

Thanks to three years of generous grant funding from SDG&E’s Environmental Champions initiative, the Conservancy has sponsored this program in seven local schools. The grants provided funding for equipment and transportation to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (EFRR) where students experienced our Watersheds curriculum. After completing the program, students have a greater understanding of watersheds, water quality, and civic engagement.

3-4-5-6 Program

Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, we joined forces with the San Diego Zoo and San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy (SELC) to provide back-to-back nature-based fieldtrip programs for every 3rd, 4th, and 5th grader in the Escondido Union School District (EUSD), plus all 6th graders from Title I schools in the District—a combined total of 20 schools! This multi-year, multi-partner, revolutionary approach to environmental education has never been attempted in our region.

How it works
First, environmental educators from The Escondido Creek Conservancy visit each EUSD school to introduce the 3rd-grade students to the concept of ecosystems through a fun, highly interactive escape-room style classroom presentation. Next, the children expand on these concepts by exploring and investigating local habitats in the 784-acre Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (which offers oak riparian, oak woodland, coastal sage scrub, and chaparral plant communities). Using an inquiry-based learning approach, they discover the interrelationships between native wildlife, native plants, the biological communities they inhabit, and the impact human activities have on these ecosystems. Afterwards, the 3rd graders participate in anti-litter campaign to help keep our habitats and communities clean and beautiful. But the 3rd grade curriculum is just one part of a much larger program.

All of the 4th grade students from these same schools receive fieldtrips through the San Diego Zoo to learn about watersheds, and in 5th grade the students explore the San Elijo Lagoon and Cardiff State Beach with SELC to learn about food chains. Additionally, 6th grade students from the EUSD take fieldtrips to the Elfin Forest and to an outdoor learning lab at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research to conduct conservation science projects as part of a Save Our Species program.

Why it matters
This new comprehensive strategy represents a significant sea change to how we and our partner organizations traditionally approached environmental education efforts in this District. In the past, all three organizations have predominantly operated independently at various grade levels, doing great work, but creating overlap and leaving gaps. Our new approach refocuses our efforts and brings the organizations together for optimal reach and impact. Establishing coordinated multi-partner, multi-year nature-based programs for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Escondido Unified School District is an unprecedented approach to environmental education, the likes of which has never been attempted in San Diego County.

We believe that the continuity of these programs, from 3rd grade to 6th grade, will provide a holistic understanding of our environment and the issues confronting it, and that it will foster the next generation of environmental super stewards as a result. A longer-term goal is to permanently fund these programs so that the programs can better compliment one another. We also hope to eventually cover more grade levels so that every child in the Escondido Unified School District will receive quality environmental education.

Conservation Fellows

The Escondido Creek Conservancy, working with Escondido Education COMPACT, is kicking off a program for High School and College students to participate in a revolutionary re-design of the flood control channel in Grape Day Park. This opportunity will allow students to explore the watershed, work alongside business professionals, and make a difference in their community.

Conservation Fellows with The Escondido Creek Conservancy will explore different sites within the Escondido Creek watershed through fun hikes and overnight camping trips. Additionally, Fellows will explore different career options and network with engineers, architects, economists, and wildlife biologists. With their help, each fellow will also create and present their own project to the Conservancy and city leaders. Service with the Conservation Fellowship gets them outdoors, allows them to make an impact in their community, and makes them stand out from other candidates as they apply for college or employment.

Applicants must live near the flood control channel in Escondido. While they can stay longer, The Escondido Creek Conservancy asks that they participate for at least one year of the 18-month project so they can get the most out of the experience. Time commitments will vary depending on their project, but they should expect to participate an average of four hours per month.

The first Conservation Fellows program session begins in July, 2018.

To request an application, please email mreyes@educationcompact.org

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Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning involves partnerships in which participants gain knowledge and skills by working with staff/volunteers to investigate and respond to real-life questions, problems, or challenges facing the watershed or the Conservancy. This includes K-12 and college-level environmental research projects, and student-designed projects focusing on vital environmental questions.  Every year, we produce a new list of projects and let students and their teachers select the ones that are most interesting and relevant to them.

Past projects have included things like water quality testing of the creek, the construction of owl boxes, wren boxes, bat boxes, and bee hotels, the design of logos and graphics for the Conservancy, investigations of native and invasive species of ants, and more.

If your school is in the Escondido Creek watershed and you would like to learn more about projects we offer, contact Education Manager Simon Breen: simon@escondidocreek.org.