On April 22, 2016, Earth Day, Save Mount Diablo (SMD) had the privilege of signing our inaugural Conservation Collaboration Agreement with Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School (JMIS), a public middle school in Moraga. Its mission highlights preparedness for the future and a life-long love of learning while providing a positive and safe learning environment. JMIS encourages self-development through opportunities to contribute to society at large as well as the local community.
The Agreement acknowledges that the Mount Diablo region’s natural environment is greatly threatened by development and other pressures and that the students of JMIS have a major stake in what their future environment will look like. The Agreement further recognizes that it is important for these students to learn about and directly connect with their natural environment. In this modern and fast paced society which often distracts us from the natural world, it is crucial that environmental education initiatives re-center young people’s curiosity and values to our collective backyard.
Learning how to step up, protect the natural landscape and contribute to community efforts are integral components of the Conservation Collaboration Agreement. By working together, the parties can better help protect the Mount Diablo region while furthering their respective land conservation and education missions. Dawn Lezak, a JMIS teacher, said, “Through the partnership with Save Mount Diablo, Joaquin Moraga Intermediate’s EARTH Class and ECO Club students were able to apply what they learned in school and see how land conservation works in practice. This experience gave them the opportunity to see how relevant their classroom curriculum is to local conservation and environmental activism.”
The Conservation Collaboration Agreement had three basic parts. First, the staff of SMD provided in-class educational presentations regarding land conservation to the JMIS 6th grade EARTH Class and ECO Club. Next, SMD staff taught and led the JMIS 6th grade EARTH class and ECO Club in an outdoor, experiential work service project at SMD’s Curry Canyon Ranch property—which also included a contemplative journal writing exercise where students did a 30-minute solo outdoors and reflected on the question of “What is nature and what is my part in it?” Finally, JMIS and its participating students raised money to become members through SMD’s new Young Friends Membership Program. Students in the 6th grade EARTH Class and ECO Club are directly contributing to the philanthropy necessary to support SMD’s time-sensitive land conservation work, learning that it takes a collaborative, group effort to protect the natural environment we all rely on.