Help Preserve Wildlife Corridors

Nature Education in Cottonwood Canyon

Lisa Heidel, Elementary School Teacher

Cottonwood Property Educational Opportunities

Each of the below mentioned areas are broad visions of what this location holds for education.  None of this is held as a firm plan but rather potential for the future.  Working together with local educators, environmental specialists, and community leaders, AFC will plan specific use of the Cottonwood property upon acquisition.

School Outreach:

One of the most important things for the education of today’s youth is exposure to and interaction with the natural world.  Current studies show that children who do not spend enough time outside lack understanding of nature and larger environmental needs.  Our children currently have a quarter or less outdoor space for roaming than they did in the 1970s.  [Add the effects of screen-viewing, and less unstructured time] In addition, we are all aware how society, particularly our children, have more and more time As a result, lack of outdoor play and education in the natural world means a loss of mental development and critical thinking skills. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv clearly outlines this dynamic.   The opportunity for schools to take students to an oasis in the midst our urban world is of huge benefit.  Listed below are a few of the myriad of options for school outreach that will make connections to content specific areas of school curriculum.

Science: Typically when you talk about education in an outdoor setting you think of science.  The Cottonwood property offers possible science education in water studies relating to health of water, water use, and components in water. Unlike other nature locations, Cottonwood presents a chance to study spring feed water as opposed to water from watersheds created from rain, mountain snow melt, and other sources.  It offers other opportunities in plant studies, wildlife corridor studies, habitat observation, birds, geology, and seasonal change.  Given its close proximity to schools, students could make yearly individual study of scientific elements or cumulative longitudinal studies over the course of their middle or high school years. 

Social Studies/History: Cottonwood offers several historical and social studies possibilities for students.  Pasadena has a unique history of land acquisition, land use, and historical water use.  Given the private ownership of the land, concepts behind public vs. private land could be addressed and explored in relation to environmental and economic need.  How public land is defined and used could be explored as well.  In particular, the unique history of the property could be shared through a California or Pasadena curriculum.

Math: Math is tied into curriculum through calculation of acreage, volume of water the spring produces, historically how much water could have been bottled on property for sale, profits of water sale historically, and how historic bottling and water sales from the site translate to economy.  It is always fun for student to see math in daily use.

Art: Nature presents study for more than just science, math, and history.  Art teachers could bring students to the property to study line, form, shape, value and hue.  Media could include water color, photography or even leaf collection for use in clay or mixed media projects.

English: Writing offers students the perfect outlet for expression of what they experience at the Cottonwood site.  Students can be encouraged to write while at the property or upon return to the classroom as they reflect on the experience.  Written pieces can range from expository essays, discussion, scientific studies, or conservation/preservation needs to poetry and narrative elements highlighting the story of the property as well as imaginative stories located on the site.

Community Education and Community Service for Schools:

Outside of the core subjects, property such as Cottonwood offer a chance for schools and AFC to teach about far reaching concepts of stewardship, preservation, and conservation.  As our younger generations become more focused on themselves through Face Book and other social media outlets, it is vital that we present them with a chance to give back and create a rich personal and social life.   Many of the schools in the area have community service requirements for their middle and high school students.  While some students love work with the elderly, homeless, or disadvantaged, others would prefer to work with their hands and the earth.  Cottonwood can provide them with the chance to build an awareness of their natural habitat and how to take care of the earth around them.    These young students (and hopefully adults in the neighborhood) have the opportunity to receive docent training for support and interaction with other groups using the property.  Equally as important is the idea of community building.  School groups are sure to be noticed by the neighbors, which then offers us the chance to engage the Cottonwood neighbors in the activities of the property to create a pride in this land and what it is doing for our city.