Image - Junior land stewards
Hatch Elementary School fourth-graders learn about conservation and lad stewardship on open space near their school. Photo courtesy of Coastside Land Trust

Once again today, dozens of budding young scientists will make the trek from Hatch Elementary School west to a plot of open space that is theirs to help protect. They are Junior Land Stewards and they are learning some important lessons.

The program is administered by the Coastside Land Trust with the help of a $15,000 grant from the Tomberg Foundation. It is also a multigenerational experience as land trust leaders, high school scholars and fourth- graders work to sustain the environment together.

Barbara Lohman is a member of the land trust board and a retired biology teacher at Half Moon Bay High School. She says she has enjoyed seeing the kids discover their environment — and their responsibility.

“It was interesting to watch,” she said after last week’s first of four field trips to what is known as the railroad conservation easement, near Ocean and Valdez. “I didn’t see one kid who was any kind of behavior problem. They were super and enthusiastic.”

Last week, over two days, about 90 students made the 20-minute walk with the help of teachers, volunteers and older students enrolled in the Half Moon Bay High School advanced-placement environmental program. They took notes on what they saw and answered some questions about the area.

Today and Thursday they will be back to broadcast native seeds. Later they will raise native plants at Hatch and then plant them in the open space area. In February they will come back to see the results of what they have accomplished.

“They are going to see how that area has changed over time,” Lohman said.

The program ends with an art show at the land trust gallery.

The concentration on the local environment fits in with the rest of the Hatch curriculum. Third-graders have the HEAL program, which deals with nutrition. Fifth-graders have their own science work in the classroom.

“I think fourth-graders are magical, but we went to Principal (David) Porcel to ask about his curricular needs,” Lohman said. “There is definitely an academic focus to this.”

All involved would like to see the program continued and extended throughout the district. Coastside Land Trust Executive Director Jo Chamberlain said the school program dovetails with her group’s own mission.

“Our goal, of course, is science education. But to meet our mission, our goal is to teach young people that they have a responsibility to care for public lands,” she said. “That is a lifetime thing.”

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