The Coast News Group
Pacific Ridge School middle school students Lily Fangman, Divya Rao, Katrina Fraher and Danica Berson install a camera to record wildlife on Carlsbad’s walking paths. Courtesy photo

Pacific Ridge middle schoolers keep an eye on local wildlife

By Abby Adams

CARLSBAD —Good public policy is based on sound facts, and middle schoolers at Pacific Ridge School are helping the City of Carlsbad collect data to inform future decisions about wildlife corridors and protected land.

As part of the school’s service learning program, 7th and 8th graders are programming, installing and monitoring cameras placed along city hiking and walking trails near the school’s campus. In addition to human traffic, the 24-hour, motion detector cameras capture images of wildlife that also use the trails. Once the students review and catalog the data, the information will help the city better understand its wildlife corridors and how wildlife and humans use them together.

“Students are motivated when what they do makes a tangible difference in the real world,” said Alison Behr, Director of Pacific Ridge’s Service Learning program.

“Working on the camera project empowers students to have agency and know they can contribute to city planning. Our campus is surrounded by beautiful open space, so they can learn more about stewardship in our own backyard.”

Students have been excited by what the cameras have revealed so far.

“I really like going out on the trail to check the cameras each week and see what images we got,” said 8th grader Ray Gonell, resident of Carlsbad and Encinitas.

“So far we’ve seen a lot of coyotes and even got a picture of a coyote chasing a rabbit.”

Plans for later in the year include creating information posters about wildlife and native species for trailhead bulletins and laser printing placards to identify native species along the trail.

The service group is one of over 40 at the Carlsbad private school. Middle school students rotate through trimester-long service work with seniors, disabled adults, the homeless, underserved preschoolers, local elementary school students, animals and the environment. High school students initiate and lead their own service groups, addressing a wide range of issues, both local and global.

For more information about Pacific Ridge School, visit