The Need for Education in the Natural World: Our Latest Conservation Collaboration Agreement

On April 21, students from Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School and staff from Bedell Frazier Investment Counselling visited our Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve, as part of a Conservation Collaboration Agreement (CCA).

Last month, we officially opened Mangini Ranch to the public as Contra Costa County’s first free educational preserve. The main purpose of the preserve is to address the modern disconnection from nature that has been widely documented in various studies.

View from near the entrance of the preserve

Long-time educators familiar with Save Mount Diablo–owned properties have commented that these lands are ideal outdoor classrooms. They are more conducive and safe environments for learning compared to large public parks.

Although we have offered CCA field experiences on Mangini Ranch in the past, this is the first time one has been held after the preserve officially opened to the public.

Because of the property’s beauty, wildlife, and connection to Mount Diablo, it is a great spot for students and adults alike to recognize the importance of conservation firsthand.

Connecting to Nature at Mangini

Student during a nature solo

Although there were heavy rains the previous day, that didn’t stop the participants from having a good time.

After being welcomed and oriented to the property, they split off into two groups for their own activities. One group embarked on a 30-minute hike deep into the foothills to go on a “solo.” In these solos, participants sat down alone to ponder and write on the question, “What is nature and my relationship to it?”

The President of Bedell Frazier Investment Counselling, Mike Frazier, shared his reflection:

Nature and our Role 

Nature is life; It’s Earth. It’s Water. It’s Wind. It’s We.

We, the people, are the most consequential elements of nature.

We are takers. We are also givers. We just lack balance in that subject.

Rivers. Oceans. Mountains and Prairies; that’s Nature.

Smiles. Laughs. Hugs and Tears. That’s Nature too.

Nature breeds the Natural. To be Natural is to be Authentic. It’s not about being Right or Wrong, or Good or Bad. It’s about being real.

Nature is evolutionary. Give it a chance and it tells stories, really good stories. Show it respect, and it captures the past as well as the promise of tomorrow. Whistling winds and rapidly running water send messages, really important messages. Sometimes it says relax, take a seat, you found a soothing spot. Other times, it says take heed, beware, danger lies ahead. Listen to Nature.

Nature is rugged. Nature is wise. Nature is about Experiences. Nature is Colorful. Nature is Outdoors.

Treat it well, and Nature will be there for us forever. Enjoy it. Play in it. Hike it. Surf it. Run it. Bike it. See it. Breathe it. Plant it. Grow it. Share it. Be it. And most importantly, preserve it as a good steward for generations to come. That is our role in Nature.

Students during their nature solos

While the first group was exploring their relationship to nature through this solo exercise, the other group trekked off to the restoration site.

There they were learning about field ecology while helping with native restoration of the preserve. Learning about nature at the educational preserve is a multisensory experience. People can feel the grass and plants they’re working with, smell the fresh air, and hear the birds singing.

Students hiking

Hiking through the preserve

In contrast to learning about nature and the local environment through an indirect means like a textbook, being out in the preserve helps enhance people’s relationship to the natural world because they are experiencing everything firsthand.

Students were thrilled to be working out in nature with their restoration tasks, breaking up the normal continuity of learning in a classroom. Having undergone virtual classes not too long ago during the lockdown stage of the pandemic, learning about nature in nature, was a new and exhilarating experience for many.

Students coloring the landscape

Students drawing and coloring the landscape around them

Following the restoration and ecology sessions, students were tasked with thinking about nature in a different way by having a painting session, exercising their creative minds.

The Path Forward: Connecting More People to Nature

Trekking through some trees at Mangini Ranch

Our Conservation Collaboration Agreement program was originally created to help address the disconnect between society and nature. These events, while incredibly successful, can only help people connect people to the local environment when staff are present and can host a CCA. We usually do several a year.

At Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve, any educational group can reserve the preserve, seven days a week, on their own time. It is a way to help address the disconnect on a far greater level. We are also developing materials to teach visitors about the local ecology, native peoples, and the climate crisis.

Thank you to Bedell Frazier Investment Counselling for sponsoring this CCA!

All photos by Scott Hein

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