Environmental Field Work in Central Coast

Combating California’s drought and reforestation was the focus of an experiential, nature-based trip to the Central Coast for Advanced Placement environmental science students. They applied their classroom learning to the devastation of the California drought on the native Monterey pine ecosystem through reforestation and preservation efforts needed in the area.

In Cambria, they planted Monterey pine seedlings and helped to build a unique native plant garden and irrigation system utilizing repurposed water from nearby drains. The garden is now used to teach future visitors about water recycling and the native plants in the ecosystem.

“This trip was a life-learning opportunity for students to see the application of their science knowledge in a real-world context. It becomes much more tangible to understand the complex dynamics of an ecosystem when you stand in the midst of it,” said Dr. Ross-Viola. “It was also a chance for us to act as good stewards for the earth by affecting the environment in a positive way.”

Students also explored the surrounding region to better understand the implications of the drought on native plants, and studied various sources of water. Tide-pool exploration, squid dissection, and an up-close look at predatory raptors were also highlights of the experience.

“During my trip, I was able to apply all of my knowledge that I learned from my environmental science class. Being able to observe a phenomenon or organism in the wild and understand what and why it is happening, is one of the best feelings in the world,” said Hydi Ybarra, grade 12. “By the end of the three days, I am pretty sure we covered every topic we learned in Advanced Placement environmental science.”

Students took a follow-up, three-day, service-learning trip a few months later to Lopez Lake, a county park in San Luis Obispo where the drought has had a drastic effect on the park. In an effort to revitalize certain areas of the site, students planted drought-tolerant bushes, trees and shrubs native to the locale and climate. The native plant garden will help the park’s water conservation efforts.

Dr. Ross-Viola, Upper School Science Department Chair

“This trip was a life-learning opportunity for students to see the application of their science knowledge in a real-world context."

Read More in the Fall 2015 Highlander

An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California
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St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
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