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Photo by Tom Grey

Wetlands Discovery Program Turns 30

Elaine Gould
SCVAS Education Committee Member

Wetlands Discovery Program field trip, Spring 2019
October 17, 1989, has been marked in our memories as the day of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, but a fondermemory of the day marks it as the first SCVAS wetlands trip for elementary students. On Thursday, October 17, 2019, SCVAS will mark 30 years of a highly successful program that has introduced thousands of students and their families to the importance of wetlands and the joy of birding at the Bay. The program was conceived by Lynn Tennefoss, then SCVAS Managing Director, to introduce students to the importance of seasonal wetlands. Lynn hired a consultant to create the classroom materials and Elaine Gould and Allen Royer took their elementary classes out to walk the levees where Sunnyvale Baylands Park has since been built. The program materials and binoculars were passed from classroom teacher to classroom teacher who had no specific training but who were interested. The program has since undergone constant evaluation and updating: the most important changes being the introduction and training of wetlands docents to lead the classes, and financial support by SCVAS to pay the cost of providing busses and to make sure the material meets California State Educational Standards. Due to the lack of seasonal wetlands, the focus has been changed to wetlands in general.
There has been a seamless transition from year to year of excellent education coordinators who have been SCVAS staff members, frequently supported by educational interns. Presently, Carolyn Knight is filling the role of SCVAS Education Coordinator. Over the years, the site has moved from Sunnyvale, to the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Education Center in Alviso and for many years now has been located at Charleston Slough in Palo Alto. That is a perfect site due to the variety of wetlands that exist there.
The Wetlands Discovery Program is still going strong and Allen and Elaine are still participating with a group of enthusiastic, committed docents who show up week after week in fall and spring. SCVAS welcomes and encourages new docents to join this group. It is not necessary to be an A+ birder or to go out every week. If you enjoy working with 3rd-6th graders and want to share your enthusiasm and love of nature with children, please consider accompanying a group on a Thursday or Friday or help in the classroom on a Tuesday. SCVAS members can feel great pride in this exemplary program which has served Santa Clara County Schools and students for so many years.