Volcan Mountain Foundation

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San Diego County, California

Watershed Explorers


The purpose of the Watershed Explorers Program is to provide an opportunity for under-served students to get outdoors and learn what a watershed is and why its health is important for preserving wildlife and plants, supplying water and keeping water clean. As they experience the outdoors, traveling from Volcan Mountain 55 miles west to the San Dieguito Lagoon, students develop a "sense of place" and appreciation for the environment - recognizing they play a role in keeping the natural community a thriving ecosystem.

The program partners want to expand our individual nature education programs to the entire San Dieguito watershed. Although each watershed is unique, our intention in developing this program is that it be a model for use in other watersheds in the region. Students will visit different areas with diverse wildlife and habitat types and focus on different themes within the watershed, starting at the headwaters on Volcan Mountain then heading west to Lake Sutherland, the San Diego Archaeological Center, Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead/Lake Hodges and finally, the award-winning Birdwing Open Air Classroom at the San Dieguito Lagoon.

Activities at Volcan Mountain (Volcan Mountain Foundation)

Students will observe the watershed from the top of the Sky Island Trail. They will observe the Watershed Trail down below; with a stop at the year round spring that feeds the San Dieguito River. Along the way they will explore the riparian habitat and its inhabitants. They will test the water for its ability to support the life in the watershed; ending with a reflective moment. The Volcan Mountain Foundation (VMF) was born in 1988 seeking a solution that would retain the land in its natural state while finding a way to equitably compensate willing sellers of land.

VMF’s Education Program brings environmental stewardship into the classroom and students to the mountain to learn about the importance of open space habitat protection and connectivity, watershed protection, natural and human history, as well as hands-on restoration and stewardship projects. An outdoor classroom with an interpretive trail is being developed in an ancient oak, pine and cedar grove that will set lightly on the land and provide students an inspiring introduction to this natural wonderland.

Activities at Lake Sutherland (San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy)

Students will learn about the importance of this area to overall watershed vitality and health. They will be introduced to monitoring and management efforts being conducted within the San Dieguito watershed and become citizen scientists for the day collecting valuable data for the SDRP. Specifically, they will get hands on experience with water quality testing, mammal tracking & camera traps, and herp surveys.

Activities at San Diego Archeological Center (San Diego Archaeological Center)

The objectives of this program are to introduce students to the cultural history of the region, including the use of natural resources in the valley. An important scientific tool (observation and inference) will be taught and practiced. The importance of preserving and protecting archaeological sites will be emphasized.

Activities at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead (Watershed Explorer’s Contractor)

Students will learn what it was like to be a pioneering family, how the community functioned through crop production, trading and animals that provided food and milk, and the importance of the natural environment in daily living.

Activities at the San Dieguito Lagoon (San Dieguito River Park)

The students will engage in six stations to learn about the importance and diversity of the lagoon. They will observe the diversity of birds found at the lagoon and utilize plant materials collected from the Lagoon to create artwork giving them the opportunity to express their nature experience through art.

Students will study animal skulls to learn more about the animals found in the Park. Topics will include predator-prey relationships, animal habitat adaptations, and classification. Students will observe lagoon aquatic species up close while ecologists discuss their significance. A Park Ranger will discuss the importance of the lagoon ecosystem and history of the 115-acre San Dieguito Tidal Wetland Restoration. Students will test water samples from different locations at the lagoon. Samples will be tested using instruments for pH, dissolved oxygen and salinity. Students will be led on an interactive walk along the Lagoon Trail observing and discussing the natural history of the Park. Students will use the SDRP App to locate, identify and report plant and animal sightings.