In 2015, schoolchildren and teachers in Portola, Loyalton, and Quincy gathered to dedicate new Learning Landscapes outdoor classrooms as special places for learning and land stewardship.
On the Portola High Tierra de los Venados Learning Landscape, students in Dave Valle’s 7th-12th grade science classes have been building trails, installing water guzzlers and wildlife cameras, hanging bird nesting boxes and monitoring them, designing and installing interpretive signs, and planting native plants.
“Kids spend way too much time inside. I involve them in the construction and maintenance of the place so that they feel a sense of ownership and will take care of it and the creatures that live here. The kids love it," says Mr. Valle. That love of place and ownership seems to be growing.
Christina Silva and Mikayla Quesenberry volunteered to map and design a sign for their Learning Landscape’s 1-km Manzanita Trail, noting points of interest like the amphitheater classroom, benches, and butterfly garden. The girls “like being outside and doing schoolwork at the same time.”
Seventh grader Jaden Bok mountain-bikes the trail with his friends, while 8th grader Margaret Canseco hikes the trail with her family. “It’s really peaceful,” she says. “I like how it has lots of nature and people don’t disturb it and want to keep it.”
Learning Landscapes is the Feather River Land Trust's conservation and education program designed to greatly enhance children’s contact with the natural world, place-based learning, and hands-on stewardship experiences. Founded in 2000 by local residents, the Feather River Land Trust has conserved more than 47,000 acres of private lands that support outstanding biodiversity, waterways, working ranches, recreation, children’s outdoor learning, and spectacular scenery.