A conservancy’s first priority is to preserve land. Sometimes this entails maintaining natural habitats just as they are. Other times, when the land is degraded, we have to restore it before we can preserve it. But another key role of our Conservancy is to raise awareness so that the public understands why it’s so important to protect land in the first place. That’s why we love restoration events with student helpers! These events provide a wonderful opportunity to combine restoration and education in one fun event, and they are the embodiment of stewardship in action.
Such was the case this past February. Through a generous grant from the San Diego Foundation, in partnership with the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, we brought 91 third grade students on a fieldtrip to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve to learn about native plants, wildlife, and their habitat requirements. Next, we took them to one of our properties that used to be a quarry site. The students were able to see the contrast between a healthy habitat and a degraded one. Then they took action to restore the quarry. In addition to planting 50 coast live oak trees, they also removed invasive plants and significant amounts of litter strewn about the area.
Our Conservation Land Manager, Hannah Walchak, would normally have to perform this work alone, and it would have taken countless hours. But with students helping, the restoration was all finished before lunch time. According to Hannah, “The kids worked tirelessly – literally, they never got tired even when I was ready to quit.” Years from now, we hope these students will return to the area as adults and take pride in the vibrant oak grove they helped plant.
Next month, students from Orange Glen Elementary will be participating in the same program and restoring a different Conservancy property in need of some TLC. From learning to doing, we believe this is how nature stewards get made, one school at a time. We want to thank the children who are helping us provide healthy habitats for wildlife, and who are beautifying our community in the process.