To engage our community, especially children and families, in exploring,  learning about, and caring for San Luis Obispo County’s oak woodland resources.

LATO is a K-6th grade oak science education and 5th/6th grade youth environmental leadership training program. Santa Margarita Elementary School, a K-6th grade school within the Atascadero Unified School District, has served as our home base since 2005. A nature trail developed on 15 acres of private Santa Margarita Ranch land adjacent to the school provides a place where children and families can explore and learn about the oak woodland ecosystem. In 2016, we’re branching out to new schools and field sites in other parts of San Luis Obispo County. Visit our FB page for the latest news.

IMG_2807friendship and fun

LATO is a high-impact, low-cost program incorporating these ingredients for success:

LATO began in 2005 with a grant from the California Wildlife Conservation Board to the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. Two multi-year grants supported development of LATO through 2011. In 2013, LATO became a program of The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, a local nonprofit land trust serving the Central Coast for more than 25 years.

Thanks to The California Wildlife Conservation Board (especially Marilyn Cundiff who served as Oak Woodland Conservation Program Administrator through LATO’s development years and is now retired), Santa Margarita Ranch, the University of California (LATO’s home since its launch in 2005; UC Area Natural Resource Specialist Bill Tietje deserves much credit.), Santa Margarita School, and many collaborators, volunteers and donors who have contributed to the success of LATO.

Image 2 - Version 2Oak Ambassadors Nathan, Carson and Emma with LATO program director Beverly Gingg at the State Capitol, May 31,2012In May 2012, Oak Ambassadors Nathan Sharon (6th grade), Carson Ogburn and Emma John (both 7th grade, OA alumni) traveled to the State Capitol for a special presentation to the California Wildlife conservation Board. 

Enjoy their slideshow highlighting our 2005-2011 accomplishments:

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Thank you and all the other wonderful volunteers and community members who have worked so hard over the years to build something so special. I am grateful you’ve provided opportunities for kids and adults alike to learn about the environment, develop an appreciation for nature, and share this love with others…We’re truly privileged to be a small part of it and we’d love to continue our involvement next year as well.

Parent of a Santa Margarita School Oak Ambassador, April 2011

…I consider myself lucky because I grew up in a family that loved to get outdoors and observe nature.  But, we generally had to leave our urban neighborhood and venture out into the country in order to do this.  And, that occurred only a couple of weekends a month, if we were lucky.   Your offering kids the opportunity to walk from their school to their nature laboratory is an opportunity I did not thoroughly appreciate until last Friday…

Steve Ela, Paso Robles resident, April 2010

Thematic nature hikes for K-6th grade classes.As a former teacher, I saw that children’s appreciation through understanding of the earth was vital to their caring for it. I’ve noticed that most children are naturally excited and engaged with outdoor education. It’s fun to share in and nurture that! I feel fortunate to be able to accompany the students on the trail.

— Carol Sinsheimer, Longtime volunteer docent,May 2012

LATO in the news:

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