What is an Oak Ambassador (OA)?
Oak Ambassadors (OA) are students, 4th grade and above, who have completed ten weeks of junior naturalist training to serve as competent nature guides for other kids and families on local oak trails and at camps and community events. The program started in 2010 at Santa Margarita School and has grown each year as more students seek the challenges involved in becoming natural leaders.
I discovered that I am more comfortable in nature. I was excited to learn because I just like to learn in general and learning about something I really like is super fun. I love being an OA! —- Riley, OA Class of 2020
I love nature. I especially love birds and mammals and would like to teach others about nature. — Ava, OA Class of 2020
How to become an OA
To be eligible, 4th-grade students must maintain a B avg. in their regular classroom and an A in citizenship. Applicants must also receive the recommendation of their teacher. This is important because selected students will miss 1 hour of regular instruction each week from January through April.
Confirmation of parent/guardian understanding of the selection process.
After selection, OAs and parent/guardian complete and sign OA Code of Conduct Agreement form. Applications are available in November, and interviews are conducted in December each year.
What is expected of OAs while in training?
Oak Ambassadors learn inside and outside the classroom during their 12 week naturalist training period. It is expected that OAs come prepared to learn, ask questions, and collaborate with their fellow students to make the most of their learning opportunity. All Oak Ambassadors are expected to adhere to the OA Code of Conduct.
What do OAs do?
With LATO staff and docents as ongoing mentors, Oak Ambassadors help guide LATO nature trail hikes for other students at their school as well as for occasional community hikes. Oak Ambassadors also have the opportunity to teach other kids at youth nature camps and community events. Sometimes this teaching involves presenting fun and educational skits and puppet shows designed by Cal Poly Senior Project students. OAs share wonders of nature that otherwise may be missed by the novice hiker. Connecting land, habitats and animals allow younger students to grasp just how connected we all are. OAs promote curiosity by asking open-ended questions and encourage students to share what they have learned with their family and community.
How can OAs stay involved after graduation?
Following graduation, Oak Ambassadors are ready to help guide school nature hikes as well as occasional community hikes, especially for local youth groups, children and families. In addition, Oak Ambassadors are invited to help present outreach programs, often featuring LATO puppet shows and skits, at nature camps, libraries and festivals.
Beyond middle school, some Oak Ambassadors continue involvement in a variety of ways, including as wildlife camera volunteers (Chris and Nathan, photo at R, with other wildlife camera volunteers) and as stewardship project leaders.
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How are Oak Ambassadors supported?
The Oak Ambassador program and LATO are supported by grants, partners, volunteers and donors who believe in the value of LATO and its positive impacts for our community. We need and appreciate your contributions!