Coachella Valley Unified School District
Friends visits grammar schools of with Coachella Valley Unified School District, local YMCAs, and other childrens' group to provide hands-on activities and projects to help them learn about their local natural environment. This program is now a major focus of the organization; learning about our local wildlife and natural resources at a young age will help future generations develop the knowledge and the sense of responsibility needed to take care of our natural environment.
Full-time staff and volunteers have created classroom lessons on a variety of environmental topics. Staff visit the school and spend the afternoon working with the students on a fun but educational project. The following day, Friends coordinates an after school hike and pays for all the expenses. The hike helps to reinforce the lessons main theme while at the same time provides them an opportunity to have fun exploring. I don't participate in the classroom sessions but I do help lead the hike. During our time together, we talk about plants, mountains, erosion, 10 hiking essentials, and any questions on their mind. It's a really fun experience!
My first talking point is always hiking safety and knowing where you are and where you are going.
Here is my classroom.
There's always time to spend with individual students talking about desert plants and encouraging the power of observation.
Not sure who had more fun, me or them.
La Quinta High School Public Service Academy (PSA)
For a number of years, La Quinta High School PSA program has partnered with the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument staff and Friends of the Desert Mountains to provide a forum for hands-on learning and career-related activities with various US Federal Government agencies and local nonprofits.
The PSA is designed for students who have an interest in public service careers including law enforcement, emergency medical, legal, civil service, social work and other careers that benefit the community. Students in the program are exposed to a variety of public service careers through guest speakers, field trips, and hands-on activities.
During their annual visit to the National Monument Visitors Center in 2022, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of PSA students on a brief hike in the Monument.
We talked about Friends of the Desert Mountains mission and volunteer opportunities. Surprisingly, the kids were really engaging during the hike.
I must have passed the test in 2022, because when the PSA group returned in 2023, I got to spend the morning with a new group of students.
This year with less COVID restrictions, the National Monument staff arranged for several federal agencies to sent representatives to be present and answer questions during the PSA visit. These students were curious about how it felt to wear the 40-pound pack that BLM Fire Response personnel use when they respond to wildfires.