By Patti Berryhill, Living Classroom Garden Manager
I just had the pleasure of graduating from the UC Naturalist Program! According to the Cal Nat website, “The California Naturalist Program promotes environmental literacy and stewardship through discovery and action. Courses combine classroom and field experience in Science, problem-solving, communication training and community service.” It was much more than that.
This course was offered by Grassroots Ecology at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto. We also spent our Saturday mornings exploring the open spaces on the Peninsula. We studied the geology of Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve and gained an understanding of the relationship between the serpentine soil, the rare California plantain and the Checkerspot Butterfly. We did seining at Lucy Evans in one of the salt ponds and found Comb Jellies and other interesting critters. We spent hours at Edgewood Park looking at the beautiful wildflowers and doing habitat restoration. We learned about Nature Journaling from John Muir Laws, a well-known Naturalist. We had inspiring speakers like Dr. David Fryeberg, Stanford University, California Water Resources, who discussed the watersheds in California. We hiked such beautiful areas like Jasper Ridge and Arastradero Open Space. The developers of iNaturalist from the California Academy of Sciences gave us a training on how to use the app and the importance of Citizen Scientists. I use this app every day in my work.
Hover over the images above to see the captions.
We are also required to do a Capstone project and volunteer 40 hours a year. Monta Loma Elementary School parents approached me to design a new native garden, one that shows how the local Ohlones seasonally use native plants. In my research, I discovered there used to be a shell mound and a large Ohlone village in the Monta Loma (which means mountain hill in Spanish) neighborhood. My goal is to name the garden using the Ohlone name for the village and to include the Ohlone names of the plants on the species signs.
The UC California Naturalist program started in 2012 and has partnered with 45 environmental organizations graduating nearly 3,000 naturalists who have logged over 130,000 volunteer hours. This has been an amazing, exciting and fun experience. I have really enjoyed spending time with people who get as geeky as I do about nature! I can’t wait to apply what I learned to the work of Living Classroom!