Sustainable Improvements in Outdoor & Environmental Education
Change is a part of life. Consider the Monarch Butterfly that so many of us are fond of and that inhabits the Central Coast every winter. From an egg, it changes into a caterpillar, eats milkweed ravenously until it’s time to form a chrysalis, and then it goes through a metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly. Organisms in nature change and adapt to their local environment in order to survive and thrive.
Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School is going through a metamorphosis also. When you next visit Rancho El Chorro, you will see changes to our physical site. We are adding a yurt village in core campus with the support of the local Rotary. Three of the yurts are designated as sleeping cabins to expand our bed capacity for the Residential Outdoor Science School. This will allow us to meet the needs of schools with larger enrollment. A second bathhouse will also help us meet the growing demand.
This past summer, Rancho El Chorro was under construction to begin work on our DROPS grant (Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools). This project, funded by the State Water Board, includes capturing and reusing rainwater and grey water for non-potable indoor/outdoor uses and interpretative exhibits, treating storm water runoff through bioswales and rain gardens, restoring habitat and installing native plants, and creating educational laboratories. The goal is to create a more sustainable landscape and implement best management practices (BMPs). We are excited about these site improvements and the educational opportunities they will provide students.
Outdoor School staff is also updating the program curriculum so that our instruction supports the Next Generation Science Standards and promotes environmental literacy in our students. Governor Brown recently signed SB 720 which strengthens California’s commitment to ensure that all public school students have the opportunity to become environmentally literate. The legislation provides several key changes such as:
- California’s Environmental Principles & Concepts (EP&Cs) will be embedded into curriculum frameworks. The EP&Cs shall include concepts relating to air, climate change, energy, environmental justice, environmental sustainability, fish and wildlife resources, forestry, integrated pest management, ocean, pollution prevention, public health and the environment, resource conservation, waste reduction, recycling, toxins and hazardous waste, and water.
- Governing school boards will be encouraged to take action to promote instruction in environmental literacy for grades 1-12 and embed it into LCAPs and district goals.
- Assistance in providing professional development to educators in environmental literacy.
- Ensure that environmental literacy curriculum and learning experiences are made on an equitable basis to all students and reflect the linguistic, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of California.
Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School staff is committed to providing school districts with the support they need to enhance student learning and strive for an environmentally literate student population. We are working toward sustainable improvements in both our physical campus and our program curriculum. Should you have any questions about how we can work in partnership to promote student environmental literacy and sustainable improvements in our schools, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Environmental Education
Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School
San Luis Obispo County Office of Education