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Outdoor Education Elevated

The Escondido Creek Conservancy is hosting a family-friendly outdoor festival at the Mountain Meadow Preserve on Saturday, April 6, 2024, with a rain date set for Saturday, April 13, 2024. This event is a fundraiser to support the Conservancy’s outdoor education programs that serve youth and adults in North San Diego County. Through the Conservancy’s programs, events, and exhibits, it annually reaches more than 15,000 people, many of whom are from disadvantaged communities. Festival activities will be centered at the Conservancy’s office on the Preserve. The Mountain Meadow Preserve was created by a partnership of the Conservancy, the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and San Diego County Parks and Recreation.

The day will be replete with nature-based activities for all ages and physical abilities, children and adults. Participants can choose to join, at their leisure, a guided 3-mile and/or 1-mile interpretive walk, children’s stations (where children and their families can meet Conservancy educators and participate in outdoor learning), a silent auction, live animals, nature journaling, lunch, and more. The Mountain Meadow Preserve includes breathtaking vistas and dramatic boulders; on a clear day, snow can be seen on the local mountains. Those who prefer to relax and enjoy the view from the Conservancy’s new office are welcome to sit on the Conservancy’s veranda or explore nature-based booths to learn more about local flora and fauna.

This is a fund-raising event. Your ticket helps support the important work of Conservancy educators to provide opportunities for outdoor learning.

**Silent Auction Webpage opening soon! Stand by for more information.**

For access to more information about the event schedule and information on how to sign up visit our registration page.


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 Ariel Reed
email: [email protected] | phone: (256) 221-6634

For review: TECC Education Strategic Plan 2016-2020 – Executive Summary

The Education Department’s Strategic Plan for 2024-2028 is currently being created. Look out for its expected release in early 2024!


EUSD Conservation Consortium 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 field trip 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! We have grown in size and impact, Consortium partners now reach all students TK-8 in the district – a combined total of 24 schools!

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum – TK-2nd Grade

Escondido Creek Conservancy – 3rd Grade

Coastal Roots Farm – 4th Grade

Nature Collective – 5th Grade

San Diego Zoo Safari Park – 6th Grade

Friends of Daley Ranch – 7th Grade

Palomar Health Foundation – 8th Grade

This multi-year, multi-partner, revolutionary approach to environmental education has never been attempted in our region. We could not do it without the guidance and coordination of the district’s STEM Teacher on Special Assignment, Kristen Wrisley.

How our program 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 an 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.

Why it matters

This new comprehensive strategy represents a significant change to how we and our partner organizations traditionally approached environmental education efforts in this District. In the past, all involved 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 TK-8 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 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 continue to grow these partnerships, providing high quality experiential and environmental education opportunities to every child in the Escondido Unified School District.


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 2nd – 11th graders 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.

Over the years we have received funding from multiple sources to provide this program including SDG&E’s Environmental Champions initiative and Catalent Community Grants. The grants provided funding for classroom equipment, classroom lessons, and during certain years we have been able to provide 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.

Conservation Fellowship!

In 2018, the Escondido Creek Conservancy kicked off a program for high school to college-aged youth to participate in a revolutionary redesign of the flood control channel in Grape Day Park. This opportunity allowed the youth to explore the watershed, work alongside business professionals, and make a difference in their community.

After the success of the inaugural cohort, the Conservancy wants to continue the fellowship.  Conservation Fellows explore different sites within the Escondido Creek watershed through fun hikes and overnight camping trips. Additionally, Fellows explore different career options and network with engineers, architects, economists, and wildlife biologists. With the help of Conservancy mentors, each Fellow also creates and presents their own project to the Conservancy and city leaders. Service with the Conservation Fellowship gets youth 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.

The Conservation Fellowship is a unique summer program offered to students living in the City of Escondido. We are looking for young students who are looking to make a difference in their community and have a passion for science! As part of this program, students will gain hands-on experience learning about biology and ecology.

Topics that will be introduced include: local environmental restoration, native wildlife, and our Escondido Creek watershed. Students will then have the opportunity to apply their new-found knowledge in developing a script to guide a nature walk at Reidy Creek. Their nature walk will be open to families, friends, and the public for attendance.

Click here for the final report on the inaugural cohort of Conservation Fellows and their adventures.

Benefits of Becoming a Conservation Fellow:

  • Earn community service hours!
  • Work with professionals who can write letters of recommendations and act as mentors!
  • Gain real experience and knowledge about conservation and the environment!

This fellowship program runs when funding allows. Learn more at the link below:

Conservation Fellows

5-Day Summer Adventure Camps

Escondido Creek Adventure Camp is a wildly engaging 5-day outdoor summer day camp. Campers explore the enchanting Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, where they discover the natural world by hiking, playing, and conducting hands-on science! The wide variety of activities includes guided exploration, arts and crafts, games, science experiments, story time, visits from special live animal ambassadors, and more! Each of the five days at camp will have a different theme, including Exploration and DiscoveryPlants and PollinatorsAmazing Animal AdaptationsWatershed Wonders, and Pollution & the Solution

Each day begins and ends at Grape Day Park in downtown Escondido, allowing the campers the opportunity to observe the connection between the urban portion of the creek upstream and the more natural section of the creek downstream, plus it allows them the chance to use the playground and socialize with their fellow campers. We provide transportation from Grape Day Park to Elfin Forest and back.

Check back in the Spring of 2024 for information about Summer 2024 Adventure Camp opportunities!


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 Ariel Reed: [email protected].