Del Mar students get the chance to explore life at lagoon

Del Mar students get the chance to explore life at lagoon
Photos by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — More than 600 Del Mar third-graders learned about bobcats, birds, seed balls and more during the annual San Dieguito Lagoon Day, deemed the “Superbowl of Environmental Education Outreach.” 

Hosted by San Diego Gas & Electric in partnership with the Del Mar Union School District, San Dieguito River Park joint powers authority, U.S. Geological Survey, Wild Coast and San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, the event allows students to learn hands-on about the recently restored wetlands.

During the 90-minute May 30 field trip, young environmentalists spent time at six stations where experts discussed water quality, native creatures and vegetation.

“Each station is designed to complement one component of the wetlands curriculum,” said Kelly Sarber of SDG&E’s strategic management group.

“For example, they learn about the difference between fresh water and an estuary and that each has a different ecosystem,” she said.

Ron Fay, a USGS retiree who now volunteers for the event, uses water samples from four different areas of the lagoon so the students can test for salinity.

“First I have them form a hypothesis — and they all know what that is — about which will be the saltiest — the sample from closest to the ocean or farthest away,” he said. “Then they run the tests.”

At the nature station students learned about species native to the wetlands, ecosystems and the food chain.

“We talk about why it’s important to have birds — because they eat insects — and why snakes eat rodents,” Park Ranger Natalie Borchardt said. “I tell them what to do if they see a rattlesnake.”

The students saw a rattlesnake tail, stuffed creatures from the Natural History Museum and pictures of a bobcat taken from a motion-detector camera set up in the lagoon.

“I explain why it’s important to protect theses habitats,” Borchardt said. “Without open spaces these species couldn’t thrive. Plus the kids get to be outdoors.”

The students also did some bird watching and wrote poems about the wilderness.

“Every year we get to bring all these kids to our jewel,” Sarber said.

The field trip has been a tradition for Del Mar third-graders for about a decade. SDG&E has helped sponsor the excursion for about five years.

Last year SDG&E and Southern California Edison completed an $86 million restoration project in the San Dieguito Lagoon to offset the impacts of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

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