Day 1 – CITs in MA vs LA
This is the first summer of Biocitizen LA’s CIT program and I am so excited to have the opportunity to take the lead in their training.
Today I met the two girls who are there this week and I am very impressed by their maturity and initiative regarding responsibility in the field, considering they are so much younger than the CITs I am used to in Massachusetts. While many of the qualities of Biocitizen CITs should the same between locations, many of the responsibilities change along with the different environments.
Today was the urban environmental field philosophy day at Biocitizen LA, and I got the chance to see how different the school is in an urban setting. Staff here must be much more conscious of the things around them; cars are rushing by, the city is filled with noise, and there are people everywhere. The responsibilities of the staff and the CITs are completely different in the city and I had to adapt to the new circumstances. That meant not only did I have to adjust my own teaching style with the students, but also help the CITs understand their roles in an urban environment.
Day 2 – Growth: Wings → Sharpshins
Yesterday was a hard day. Urban day is tiring for the best of us, and Monday just makes it that much more difficult. Many of the students were exhausted from a long day in the city, while still having plenty of energy to get distracted. I learned that it’s hard to keep everyone focused on the lesson and aware of their surroundings with 20 kids in downtown Los Angeles for 7.5 hours. The day was a rocky start to the week and left us staff feeling drained.
When students arrived at Echo Park this morning, the energy was already different. Students were far less distracted compared to the day before and excited to explore the Angeles Forest. We hiked for a little over two miles through the San Gabriel Mountains to reach Sturtevant Falls.
We took a page out of the Westhampton chapter, and for the first time ever in Biocitizen LA, the students split up into two groups: the wings and the sharpshins. The wings group consists of younger campers who move at a different speed and look at different things than the older group, who we call sharpshins. Splitting up the big group into two smaller 10 person groups really helped the students focus and gave the staff and CITs more opportunities to talk to them individually. On our way to and from the waterfall, we had students identifying poison oak, wild mustard, and other plants we found along our path. Students were finding newts, butterflies, and snakes. Everyone contributed to picking up trash along the trail to leave the place cleaner than we found it, and our sharpshins even helped pull out eupatorium, an invasive species that crowds Californian rivers and soaks up lots of water.
Yesterday, most of our students exhibited qualities of a student who should be in the wings group; today the staff noticed a big change in some of the students, who are starting to turn into sharpshins. They demonstrated a lot of interest in the wildlife we were studying and were much more capable of focusing on what we were doing. We have an awesome group of kids this week and I am so excited to see them grow.
Day 3 – Kindness
Today we loaded up the vans and drove to a beautiful part of the San Gabriel River. The students couldn’t wait to swim and were very enthusiastic about picking up trash, which was exciting to us staff. Upon arrival, everyone slipped on a pair of gloves and our CITs grabbed the trash bags. We split up into two groups and covered two different areas to maximize the amount of trash we picked up and to spark some friendly competition. Our Biocitizens were eager to pick up every piece of trash, large or small. Only twenty minutes later, five full bags of roughly 200lb of trash sat in a pile before a beaming group of happy campers. The passion that I have seen in the LA students for cleaning up Our Place is unlike any other, and I hope to be able to bring some of that positive stewardship energy back to Massachusetts.
After lunch it was swimming time; this is what they had all been waiting for. The walk to the swimming hole was short, but it involved some difficult terrain, including crossing the river and climbing down a steep slope. I was the caboose of the group, making sure no one was left behind. When I saw the students who had already started crossing, my heart filled with joy. Older kids were helping the little ones cross the river, unprompted by a counselor. They held hands and helped each other find good spots to place their feet. At the steep slope, one of our lovely CITs was propped up against the side, holding hands with the students as they slid down. When we got to the swimming area, I showed a few of the older Biocitizens how to “tubeless-tube.” Soon enough, they were teaching the younger kids how to do it themselves and holding their hands as they made their way into the rapid water. The thoughtfulness that our Biocitizens demonstrated today was heartwarming, and I look forward to observing their kindness and growth throughout the rest of the week.
Day 4 – Wonder
We finished up snack at the picnic tables by the parking lot at Malibu Lagoon. Michael Galano, a teacher at the school gave a lesson about the birds we may see in the lagoon, including hawks, osprey, and herons. As we walked, I watched the students’ eyes wander in wonder of the birds they saw soaring above them and perched on nearby branches. Everyone was excited to see the eggs that one of our CITs found by the water, and to learn how birds dry their wings for an easier flight. The students were engaged and eager to learn the names of birds and study their behavior, and on the way home, many of them picked up a wildlife book to look more at the things we saw that day.
After looking at birds in the lagoon, we moved on to the beach. The kids shrieked with joy at the California sea hares that were littered across the tide pools. The sea hares are big, slimey, harmless slugs that our Biocitizens apparently love to hold. All our students were curious about the strange creatures and were passionate about helping move the beached sea hares into deeper waters. As always, the care that the students showed for the creatures around them filled me with joy and reminded me why I come back every summer; I want to help inspire and foster the love I see these kids have for planet earth.
Adia’s Perspective 2019 – MA to LA!
Adia Bennett is joining us in Los Angeles again this summer for Our Place Summer School – and we are so grateful to have her strong, sweet, graceful guidance in the field, as our first Counselor in Training program launches this week, July 8th-12th.
Adia has walked as a Biocitizen for almost 10 years now! She nows steps into her role as a mentor and leader, and we are so happy to have her working with our aspiring leaders this summer! Welcome back Adia! Below are her thoughts on what it is to be a Biocitizen CIT.