We are kids teaching kids
Oak Ambassadors (OA) are students, 4th grade and above, who have completed 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. More students are seeking the challenges involved in teaching other kids, families and our community about nature in our oak woodlands.
“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
“I love nature. I especially love birds and mammals and would like to teach others about nature.” – Ava
“I learned many things about nature and why we need to protect it. I enjoyed everything that we learned. I’m very excited for graduation!” – Emory
How to become an Oak Ambassador
With increased support, we hope to offer Learning Among the Oaks Program services, including Oak Ambassadors, at more public schools in the future. We are currently limited to our three San Luis Obispo County public school partners: Santa Margarita Elementary School (Astacadero Unified School District), Ocean View Elementary School (Lucia Mar Unified School District), and Vineyard Elementary School (Templeton Unified School District).
Oak Ambassador applications are available through 4th grade classroom teachers at our public partner schools in mid-November of each year. Teachers help us select students with the greatest potential to benefit from this experience. Students must be doing well enough in their regular classroom studies to not be adversely impacted by missing class for an hour each week through the training program. Weekly training sessions begin in January and run through early April.
Serving as an Oak Ambassador is an honor that comes with responsibilities. Students must commit to serving a great role models for other kids and as representatives of their school.
It is a joy to work with these kids through their journey toward becoming Oak Ambassadors and to see them shine as nature leaders on the trail.
Oak Ambassadors at work
With LATO staff and docents as ongoing mentors, Oak Ambassadors help guide nature trail hikes for other students at their school and 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.
I thought hiking was just a thing to do, go up a mountain and back down again. Now, I experience what’s around me. I’m part of the ecosystem.