The Cambrian

Art, environmental science team up for outdoor teaching

Docent Brian Morgan tells Santa Lucia Middle School students about the flora on the upper trails of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
Docent Brian Morgan tells Santa Lucia Middle School students about the flora on the upper trails of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

This year, the Santa Lucia Middle School students of Danielle Narzisi’s environmental science class and my art class took education outdoors.

The Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve met with us on four field trips through different learning experiences that combined art with science.

Brian Morgan led us through different areas of the forest where students learned about the variety of flora and fauna on the upper trails of the ranch. On our last hike in the spring, Stephen Beck and Duffy Burns taught the students how to identify wildflowers growing along the bluff trail.

After each field trip, the two classes worked together to compile their notes and photos in order to create pages for a Fiscalini Ranch Field Guide. We had to hold a flora and fauna “draft pick” for species to be researched by the students. That was the only way to avoid having a conflict over who would get to draw the more popular subjects like the poppy or the monarch butterfly. Everyone worked together to identify what would need to be included to make a good field guide that represented the beauty of the ranch.

I asked students to have the mindset of a tourist who had never been to Cambria before and to look at everything as if it were the first time. Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve provided some binoculars and those were a big hit. Students were so excited to scan the coastline to see the whale’s spray and observe the otters cracking shells open.

We are so fortunate to have such amazing resources to enrich our students’ education. In the future, we hope to assemble our field guide and publish it for visitors. The Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is a nonprofit organization that protects and maintains the ranch for the public to enjoy. It provides monthly walks with docents, and now they can add our educated youth in protecting this precious piece of paradise.

The Open Classroom appears quarterly and is special to The Cambrian.

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