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Ballona Wetlands 2017 Report

June 19, 2017

Wetlands introduction session

Ballona Wetland 2016/17 Summary

Ballona Wetlands Education has had another full year of bringing 4th and 5th graders out to the wetlands for a morning of nature study.  We have received the year end summary from Cindy Hardin, who is the lead person for this program.

Every year SMBAS funds 10 buses to bring students to the wetlands.  This amounts to $3500 plus, but it is money well spent.

If you are interested in volunteering, training starts after Labor Day.  You can reach Cindy at “Cindy Hardin” <cindyhardin[AT]>.

SMBAS congratulates Cindy and all her docents for the wonderful job they do each and every year.
Below is the email we received from Cindy that contained the summary.

Kids arrive on the bus

Hello All,

If you are receiving this summary it means that you have had a hand in making Los Angeles Audubon’s education program at Ballona the fabulous experience that it is for visitors of all ages.

We had a great year with our elementary school children, and Open Wetlands has become a well-established monthly happening, thanks to the efforts of all of you wonderful volunteers. We literally could not do it without you.

Please take a moment to pat yourself on the back for all the good work! And a special shout-out to Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society for their consistent encouragement and support. (highlight added)

A huge thank you from the bottom of my heart,

The main wetland channel looking south towards Culver Blvd. (Leslie Davidson ’08)


 It was another fantastic year at Ballona. We had 42 tours in all, and were visited by 25 different schools. A total of 2356 students were able to experience Ballona during the 2016-2017 school year. These numbers are impressive, especially in light of the fact that the drought busting winter rains caused several tour re-schedules.

Each teacher that visits receives a questionnaire about their trip. What follows is a summary of responses from the surveys that were returned. Numbers next to the comments indicate the number of teachers that had that same response.

What would you tell another teacher who asked you what you did on this trip?

  • Saw plant and animal species and their habitats (10)
  • Learned how to use binoculars and microscopes (9)
  • Learned about the importance of saving wetlands/migration (6)
  • Created a deep understanding of species present (2)
  • Covers NGSS standards appropriate to grade level (4)
  • Explored/viewed beautiful wetland habitat (7)
  • Informative/fun (2)
  • “I would advise any teacher to take the opportunity to visit Ballona. The program is so well run and 100% valuable.”

What interested your students the most about the trip?

  • Bird watching (19)
  • Learning about the different plants (2)
  • Binoculars/magnifying glasses (6)
  • Migration
  • Microscopes
  • Being away from the city
  • Having the students outdoors was awesome (3)
  • Everything! (2)

Was your tour guide helpful, knowledgeable and informative? Please comment.

  • The docent was awesome (3)
  • Yes! (10)
  • Knew how to handle the kids
  • Always engaging
  • She made the experience a million times better (2)
  • Our docent kept the students focused and interested
  • All guides were terrific (2)
  • Understanding and positive

What could be done to improve the program?

  • Perfect (14)
  • Keep the Magnification Station
  • Video via the internet
  • Ask a few “focus questions” when the students arrive in order to get them thinking about what they will see as they tour the wetlands. Then follow up with a “de-briefing” that addresses those questions.
  • Give students a better understanding of what is needed to preserve what is left of the wetlands.
  • Prep teachers on what will be the focus of the tour in order for them to be aware of what facets of life science to cover prior to the trip.
  • More time on the wetlands (5)
  • Water/snack break

Every school that participates in our program receives a visit to their school prior to the field trip from one of our Los Angeles Audubon staff or volunteers. This component of the program is unique; most other environmental education groups do not offer this service.

This is a valuable preparation tool for students, teachers and our team. Teachers learn what to expect, students get excited about their field trip, and we get a general idea of the tone and behavior habits at each school. In addition to a PowerPoint presentation and exhibit of taxidermied birds, bones and feathers, the teachers receive a packet of wetland themed activities to do with their class. Also, each student receives a Birds of Ballona Booklet of their very own. These are some of the comments teachers made about the materials provided, and how they were utilized.

  • Bird Books were used to make research cards
  • Bird Books were a huge hit with the children (3)
  • We used the line drawings of birds contained in packet to color after researching the appearance of the birds
  • The poster was a great visual aid to have in the classroom
  • Crossword and Word Search helped with vocabulary (3)

And the visit itself:

  • The pre-site was an EXCELLENT experience. I appreciate all that was done to give exposure to the animals and plants and also science concepts/importance of wetlands
  • Piqued the students’ interest and laid a great foundation for trip
  • Our presenter was so enthusiastic . . . after her presentation they were dying to get out and explore


  • Possibly have kids explore the tables halfway through, so they are not sitting for so long
  • Maybe a little shorter for the younger grades

A deep and heartfelt thanks to all for a great year. You are all superstars of environmental education!

[Submitted by Lillian Johnson]

One Comment
  1. marilynjudson permalink
    June 21, 2017 11:24 am

    Lillian — You have been doing this for several decades, now, I believe. Thank you for your loyalty and tenacity in such a noble and worthwhile venture!


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