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Bringing Escondido Schools Outdoors

We have an incredibly exciting announcement!  Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, we will be joining forces with the San Diego Zoo and San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy (SELC) to provide nature-based field trip programs for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Escondido Unified School District (EUSD)—a total of 20 schools!

This multi-grade, multi-partner, revolutionary approach to environmental education has never been attempted in San Diego County.

Beginning in September, environmental educators from The Escondido Creek Conservancy will visit every single EUSD elementary school to introduce the 3rd-grade students to the concept of ecosystems through a fun, highly interactive classroom presentation. Next, the children will 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 will 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 will 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.

All of the 4th grade students from these same elementary schools will receive field trips through the San Diego Zoo to learn about watersheds, and in 5th grade the students will explore the San Elijo Lagoon with SELC to learn about food chains. Additionally, 6th grade students from three EUSD middle schools will take field trips to the Elfin Forest and an outdoor learning lab at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research to learn about invasive species.

We believe that 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 stewards as a result. Funding for this first pilot year was made possible by generous grants from the San Diego Foundation and the Malk Foundation. A longer-term goal is to permanently fund these programs so that the programs will have continuity, as 3rd grade students build on what they learn from one year to the next until they emerge from 6th grade as sophisticated super stewards. We also hope to eventually cover more grade levels so that every K-12 child in the Escondido Unified School District will receive quality environmental education some day.

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, we’ve predominantly operated independently at various grade levels, creating overlap and leaving gaps. But this bold new approach refocuses our efforts and brings the organizations together for optimal reach and impact.  We’re absolutely ecstatic to see the positive influence this robust programming will have on our youth and our planet.