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(courtesy photo)

Nature Comes to Life with New Educational Program at Mission Trails Regional Park

San Diego County CA— Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation will offer a series of unique, low-cost educational programs designed to increase appreciation for San Diego’s ecology. The “Tales and Trails” program allows children ages five to twelve to spend two hours at one of San Diego’s premiere educational and recreational locations while learning important lessons about science, Kumeyaay history and culture, and the environment.

The first session, titled “Native Land, Native Nation,” was held on June 23 and taught students about the Kumeyaay Nation. The program explored the ways in which the bands  lived with minimal impact on the environment by walking along a trail and making observations on the landscape that sustained the Kumeyaay people. Hands-on activities included grinding acorns, scrapping yucca from fiber and painting pictographs with red clay.

At the center of these programs is veteran science educator, Cindy Christ. Christ has over 25 years of experience in child development and education. A former science instructor for the San Diego Natural History Museum, Christ crafts science programs designed to be accessible and interesting to children. She has taken those skills to make each “Tales and Trails” program tailored to generate enthusiasm and curiosity among children of all ages. The programs provide an assortment of different activities, ranging from songs, stories, art and more.

“Our project-based learning model allows children to engage with the world around them,” said Christ. “They don’t even think about the fact that we are teaching them important lessons about science, history and culture because they are having so much fun.”

The second session is set for June 30 and is titled “Young Chaparralian.” The class will explore San Diego’s special ecological landscape, commonly referred to as “chaparral.” In this program, students will create a herbarium using plant rubbings from pressed specimens, touch and smell the aromatic flora and discover the leaf structure of the chaparral. These activates will allow students to gain a better understanding of San Diego’s unique geography and rich botanical diversity.

(courtesy photo)

(courtesy photo)

The next session, set for July 14, titled “Near One Pond,” will delve into the unique attributes and importance of the San Diego River. Each participant will create their own journals to record scientific observations as they contrast the wetlands surrounding the San Diego River with the chaparral that dominates the rest of the park.

On July 28, students will investigate the natural world in a program titled “Nature Detectives.” Participants will inspect clues that can be found in the local flora and fauna as well scat and tracks to more fully understand nature. In addition, this program will also allow an outlet for students’ artistic abilities by creating drawing using colors and textures found in nature.

On August 11, a session titled “Survivors Adaptations” will teach children the ways in which species develop over time to more successfully thrive in their environment.  Participants will walk along the trail and uncover the many adaptations the local species exhibit. To cement the knowledge gained from their journey along the trail, children will return to the classroom to imagine their own animal species and describe the adaptations that each would need in order to survive.

The last session of “Tales and Trails” titled “In a Nutshell” will take place on August 25. Participants will learn how a small seed can develop into a large oak tree and how this metamorphosis affects other living being in the ecosystem. This session will also teach the importance of responsible environmental stewardship though stories, crafts and other interactive activates.

The initial phase of the “Tales and Trails” program will end on August 25. However, plans are already in the works to extend the program to children year-round.

Each session is two hours long and runs from 9:30 to 11:30 AM at a cost of $10 per child. All sessions will begin at the Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center. For more information about the “Tales and Trails” program, as well as other programs at Mission Trails Regional Park, please visit mtrp.org.