Our Education Program brings environmental instruction to students throughout San Diego County through field trips and other active hands-on nature experiences. SDAS core education programs include Outdoor Explore!, Silverwood Science Discovery, Anstine Adventures, and Sharing our Shores.
Outdoor Explore! and Habitat Helpers
The OutdoorExplore! nature education program introduces children to our natural environment by connecting elementary and middle school students to natural open spaces right in their own neighborhoods. This after-school enrichment program serves school districts throughout San Diego County. OutdoorExplore! is designed to build familiarity and connection with nature; enhance observational skills and imagination; increase physical activity in a relaxed, non-competitive environment; introduce stewardship; develop a sense of place; and be fun for the students. Through active, hands-on exploration of nature, students learn about native wildlife and habitats while stimulating an ethic of stewardship and civic responsibility for these nature spaces. The OutdoorExplore! program partners with the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department to provide a second tier to this program, called Habitat Helpers. Habitat Helpers is a stewardship program where participants are provided with a hands-on learning opportunity while simultaneously contributing to the restoration of City Open Spaces by planting and caring for native plants. The activity teaches local students about native flora, promotes stewardship and conservation activities, and connects students to these urban natural places long after their weekly visits have concluded. Habitat Helpers deepens the educational value of OutdoorExplore! for students, and connects each child to their piece of nearby nature in an incomparable way.
Silverwood Science Discovery
The Silverwood Science Discovery program combines an in-class lesson with a Naturalist-guided field trip to our Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary in Lakeside. This interdisciplinary curriculum explores San Diego's chaparral and coastal sage scrub habitats and is aligned to meet California Content Standards for Science. While on the field trip, children learn about native plants, wildlife and their adaptations to our Mediterranean climate. They learn about wildlife tracking, build observation skills, and learn intriguing facts about the natural history of the area such as which plants were traditional food sources for the native Kumeyaay inhabitants.
Sharing our Shores
The Sharing our Shores program introduces students to the local threatened and endangered shorebirds native to San Diego County, along with beach ecology and conservation issues. The program combines an in-class lesson with a field trip to one of San Diego’s beaches and strives to educate the students about San Diego’s threatened Western Snowy Plovers (Charadrius nivosus) and endangered California Least Terns (Sterna antillarum browni). As part of this program, students design signs that are subsequently posted near shorebird nesting sites, helping to inform the public about these amazing birds. This project is a collaboration between SDAS, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and CA State Park biologists. Students learn about predators, conservation, endangered species, habitat types, and have the opportunity to use scientific tools such as binoculars.
Fun Fact: Western snowy plover adults use unique distraction displays, such as faking a broken wing, to lure predators away from their nest and chicks.
The Anstine Adventures program engages fourth and fifth-grade students in hands-on scientific exploration at our Anstine-Audubon Nature Preserve. For students from the Vista Unified School District, the 11-acre nature preserve transforms into an outdoor classroom and offers them the opportunity to enhance their exploration, experimentation, and observation skills. Each class participates in three weekly visits to Anstine, where the students learn how to identify and classify local plant, bird and insect species, monitor pond health through water quality sampling, and participate in habitat restoration through planting native species at the preserve. The program encourages students to develop an appreciation for nature in their community, as well as develop their science expertise through Next Generation Science Standards and S.T.E.M education practices.