Since the Friends accepted the opportunity to serve as the support group for the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, the educational component of the Friends’ mission has developed into one of the group’s greatest passions. As a land trust that acquires and preserves conservation land in perpetuity, Friends recognizes that without an educated, caring public, the very land that we secure today may fall prey to changes in the law allowed by a voter base that hasn’t been given the opportunity to explore, experience and become enriched by the natural world.
Friends’ educational support includes funding for the Bureau of Land Management’s H.I.K.E. Program (“Healthy Initiative for Kids in the Environment”), a curriculum within the Coachella Valley designed to encourage children to appreciate and respect natural ecosystems and learn to interact with them in a healthy and safe way. To date, approximately 1,500 students from almost a dozen Valley schools have shared experiences both in the classroom and in the field. Classroom teachers accompany the field trips, as do parent chaperones.
Past educational programs include Junior Trail Guides. This field-based experience introduced kids from the ages of 8 to 14 to the flora, fauna, geology and cultural history of the National Monument. Participants enjoyed both outdoor “class time” and field study while working with the facilitators, all volunteers of the Friends of the Desert Mountains. The program graduated and brought back former Junior Trail Guides as “Trail Masters” who helped their younger charges work through the curriculum, the ultimate complement to any educational experience.
Currently, Friends is partnering with the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management in their new “Public Lands Education Program,” a program designed “to educate underserved youth about natural resources career opportunities and employ youth to restore natural and cultural landmarks significant to California’s landscape legacy.” This program will provide funding not only for transportation and basic class materials, but will also provide stipends to participants for doing conservation work, thereby helping the youth on multiple levels from the practical to the educational.
The list of Friends’ supported programs goes on, just like our commitment to education and the community.