Connecting kids to nature

photo by Vanessa Vasquez/FRLT staff

Place-based education in the Feather River region

Learning Landscapes is FRLT’s conservation and education program designed to facilitate the nature-kid connection throughout the school year with access to open space, place-based learning, and hands-on stewardship experiences.

While our local kids live in rural communities, quality time outdoors is not a given. Since 2004 we have been working to remedy “nature deficit disorder” in the Feather River region in partnership with school districts, landowners, teachers, and students. Research and experience demonstrate that kids thrive on many levels when provided with outdoor education and hands-on learning.

2,500 schoolchildren

annually

60 teachers

trained each year

6 rural communities

participate in 3 counties

13 schools

across 3 school districts

14 landowners

for 16 properties

Learning Landscapes is a great example of what positive systemic impact can be. Working with school districts, individual schools and individual staff ensures that current and future students know, care for, and protect the Feather River watershed that they call home.

—Jaime Zaplatosch, Director of Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities

1

CONSERVE

We conserve and maintain outdoor classrooms on campuses and nearby natural areas within a short walk from public schools making it easy for teachers to take students outside to learn, play, and steward the land.

2

ENHANCE

We install trails, signs, and seating areas on campuses and adjacent lands to create safe outdoor learning environments--when possible land stewardship, trail building, and habitat restoration is done with student participation.

3

SUPPORT

We train and support K-12 teachers to teach from the land and lead their students in hands-on learning. Learning Landscapes does not directly provide a curriculum but rather gives teachers expertise and tools to become great outdoor educators.

4

REPLICATE

We teach others. Recognized by the Land Trust Alliance as a successful model for community conservation and outdoor education, our Coordinator, Rob Wade, coaches other land trusts on how to implement their own Learning Landscapes-inspired program

Westwood

In Lassen County, students and teachers from Westwood’s two K-12 schools students walk to two off-campus outdoor classrooms for field journaling, P.E., and science: Lumberjack Woods, 200 acres of forest and meadow owned by a regional timber company, and FRLT’s 8-acre Gateway Preserve at Mountain Meadows Reservoir.

Chester

On the banks of the Feather River and Lake Almanor, Chester’s K-12 students walk to three large Learning Landscapes to explore and learn: Forest ecology and trail maintenance at the interpretive Collins Pine Trail, history and birds at FRLT’s Olsen Barn Meadow, and wetland and riparian ecosystems at PG&E’s Chester Meadows.

Greenville

Indian Valley is home to two outdoor classrooms secured by MOUs with local landowners. K-12 students utilize the Wolf Creek site to study river ecosystems, trout, and native plants. The Greenville Cemetery Forest, a forested hill with a ¾-mile meandering trail, offers Sierra mixed conifer habitat for earth science study and PE activities.

Quincy

American Valley has 4 Learning Landscapes properties serving 3 schools, Pioneer Elementary (K-2), Quincy Elementary (3-6) and Quincy High School (7-12). The 4 outdoor sites have a range of habitat types representing all the primary ecosystems in and around the town (ag lands, wet meadows, creekside forests, and chaparral and pine hillsides).

Portola

Three unique outdoor sites serve two schools. Kids Creek Forest is adjacent to C. Roy Carmichael and is owned and managed by the US Forest Service. Tierra De Los Venados is the Portola High School’s on-campus site with trails and habitat features built by students and staff. Wildcat Creek, owned by the City of Portola, has a seasonal creek.

Loyalton

Loyalton Elementary (K-6) and Loyalton High (7-12) in Sierra County are served by one large Learning Landscapes’ site directly across the street from the schools with a working ranch, creek habitat, and open grassland fields. The 160-acre Smithneck Creek Meadows is protected by a conservation easement and managed for agricultural production.

Connect more kids to nature!

Are you a land trust or teacher interested in learning more about the Learning Landscapes model? We've created resources for land trusts and teachers to guide and support the expansion of outdoor classrooms.

Learn More

We are bringing up a generation of students that will enjoy, care about, and protect our outdoor places

—Nicholle Crowther, 4th grade teacher, Chester Elementary School

Learning Landscapes helps me understand a lot more about our environment and how I can help my community.

—7th grade student, Quincy Jr/Sr High

We have a saying at our school—You're a mountain kid. You're a mountain kid if you've interacted with local plants and animals. You've seen them in the wild, you understand their ecology, and you've done projects to support them.

—Aletha O'Kelley, Chester, CA

WaterSafeguarding the Sierra’s largest source of clean, abundant water
WildlifeProtecting critical habitats for 300+ species of birds and wildlife
Ag & Open SpaceConserving open space and ag lands that host wetlands and wildlife
RecreationPreserving majestic beauty and access to nature-based recreation
Native HomelandsConserving Maidu homelands and supporting cultural connections to land
KidsCultivating a love of nature and stewardship in the next generation
BiodiversityConserving one of the American West’s most biodiverse regions
Climate ResilienceProtecting biodiverse lands and waters that help natural systems thrive
CommunityProtecting treasured landscapes and community connection to land
Whether our kids stay or move away, they will understand things like, "Where does our drinking water come from? What affects that resource?" My kids will never forget these experiences. Outdoor learning fosters critical thinking, creativity, fun, and a real-world context for learning.
- Nicholle Crowther,
4th grade teacher, Chester