“Look it! Look it!” screamed science teacher Ellen Clark to her Mountain View Elementary students while wandering through More Mesa. “It’s a white-tailed kite. See it?”
Turning their gaze away from burrowing owl burrows and toward the sky, the 5th and 6th graders watched the fast-flapping wings of the sleek bird of prey before it dipped behind the oak trees of Atascadero Creek. Seizing the teachable moment, Clark quickly showed them a poster about how the kite nests on More Mesa, the more than 300 acres of coastal bluff open space sandwiched between Goleta and Hope Ranch that’s a haven for countless species of wild animals and plants. A few minutes later, they’d be down in the creekbed, learning about the difference between three-leaves-let-it-be poison oak and if-it’s-hairy-it’s-a-berry bushes.
This wasn’t an official outing to study for some test, and it wasn’t even during school hours. The field trip was part of the Environmental Science Club that Clark started as a way of bringing kids into nature. “It’s so they develop an appreciation for nature. That’s all this is,” said Clark, a former ranger of Channel Islands National Park, and it seems to work. “These kids are like little sponges,” she explained. “I can’t keep up with them. They want to know more and more.” In addition to lunchtime talks on campus about bobcats, skunk tracks, and the kites, More Mesa — which will be celebrated during an art- and science-soaked fundraiser this Sunday — serves as the perfect classroom.
Parents like Rich Klakeg appreciate the club and the landscape. “I know for my daughter,” he said, “it’s just reinforcing that nature is a part of life.” The 10-year-olds get it too. Ally likes to come out “because it’s pretty,” and Gabey showed that the nature trips are already turning kids into more conscientious humans, explaining, “It’s green. Go green.” But perhaps Summer summed up More Mesa best for both young and old. “I just like the feeling because we get to be out in the open,” she said. “It’s peaceful.”
Enjoy garden tours, art displays, visits to orchid estates, and more at Preserve More Mesa 2012 this Sunday, May 20, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at More Mesa Shores. Tickets are $8-$15 each depending on size of group and age. See moremesa.org or call 805-683-1878 for info.