By Cindy Kimmick, CIR Board President

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Along with Channel Islands Restoration’s mission to restore habitat on the Central Coast and Channel Islands is our goal of providing environmental education to under-served students through environmental service trips. Near the end of May, CIR coordinated with the National Park Service to bring students from Academia Advance (a public charter school with a 100% minority student body, 92% of which are classified as low income) out to Santa Cruz Island for an overnight service trip. The CIR grant-funded Academia Advance trip was arranged to coincide with a non-CIR funded trip for Yuba River Charter Middle School, enabling CIR to work with twice the number of students on the same trip, doubling the impact of our grant funding.

Many of the Academia Advance students had never been to a national park, been on a boat, or seen a dolphin prior to this trip. On their first day, the students went on a Cavern Point hike, and set up camp with help from CIR volunteers. Many of the students had never put up a tent or been camping, and so some extra education on care of equipment, camping etiquette, and the art of preserving their food from the inquisitive island foxes and ravens was needed. That evening, the students were eager to go on a night hike down to the beach where they persuaded their teachers to let them play in the surf.

Over the course of the trip 27 sixth and seventh graders from Academia Advance (Lincoln Heights in LA County) and 29 eighth graders from Yuba River Charter (from Northern California) worked to remove oyster plant (Tragapogon porrifolius) that was beginning to overtake an oak woodland full of lupine and morning glory near the Upper Scorpion Ranch Campground area. With the help of CIR and NPS work leaders Ron Nichols, Dennis Kunzler, and Cindy Kimmick, the students removed over 100 pounds of buds and seed heads from the perennial forb by carefully snipping off the dandelion-like seed heads with bandage scissors and placing them in trash bags so the seeds could not spread. In addition, the students all received an on-island, interactive natural history presentation. In a first for CIR, volunteers brought out a selection of plant and animal artifacts plus several items loaned from Friends of the Island Fox, including golden eagle skull and talons. These displays and specimens engaged the students’ tactile senses as CIR educator Caitlin Kimmick told the island fox story, emphasizing the problems caused by human-introduced non-native species. After packing up for the return trip, the students toured the visitor center at Scorpion Ranch before loading their gear and returning to the mainland.

Inspiring future generations to care about our environment and educating them on how to do so is one of our core objectives at CIR. To date, we have worked with more than 3,600 kids accompanied by 400 adults since 2004.