By Cindy Hardin, Director of Outdoor Education

Group-Photo-Kenneth-Hahn-docent-staff-2015 web

Kenneth Hahn docent staff celebrate the last day of another fabulous tour season Front Row: Joe Zell, Connie Semf, Joanna Ruacho, Brian Young, Carolyn Canterbury | Second Row: Emily Cobar, Katrina Guevara, Marla Stevens, Cindy Hardin, Katrina Liu | Back Row: Carlos Jauregui, Oscar Rodriguez, Jonathan Hardin, Brian Payes, Okoy Dillon

Although LAAS’s Environmental Education Program at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area (KHSRA) is similar in format to that of Ballona, our staffing system is quite different. At KHSRA we host field trips for elementary and middle school students as well, but our docent roster is just about evenly split between older adults and college interns. The internship is designed to provide real world experience for participating college students, and to provide education about the environment for them, which they in turn pass on to our younger visitors. This year we received a significant grant from the California State Parks Foundation that was used to pay intern stipends and fund our bus scholarship program for the visiting schools. We are extremely grateful to the Foundation for recognizing and supporting our work at Kenneth Hahn.

We have been extremely fortunate in the past few years to have some outstanding young people become involved with the program. Depending on their availability and future education plans, most choose to extend their time with us to a second year. Oscar Rodriguez is one of those individuals. Oscar found time to act as a docent at the park in addition to his studies at Santa Monica College and other commitments, and volunteered at almost every tour for two school years. KHSRA sits atop the Newport Inglewood earthquake fault, and is a 400 acre island of open space, with intact sections of Coastal Sage Scrub habitat. Oscar’s interest in geology and geography made him a natural for the program. The young students gravitated to him, and his skills in communicating concepts to them and bringing out their interest in the natural world improved every time he was present for a program. This is what Oscar had to say about his experience with Los Angeles Audubon:

“Being a volunteer at the [Los Angeles] Audubon Society has given me the opportunity to learn, grow and be a part of a contribution to greater society. Here I was able to solidify my dream of me being an outdoor educator. This program is a rich environment to learn from; bringing my own college education and my passion for nature turned out to bring a positive change to children and myself. Being a child raised in the most unsuitable places I appreciated those who were able to bring a new life in my life; by opening my eyes to the greater world. By educating these children I am able to repay those who have taught me and in turn I hope to open the children’s hearts to new possibilities. Here I grew stronger as a student, leader and overall human being. For this, Audubon Society has my thanks. I am truly grateful for allowing me to be part of this program”.

Oscar has been awarded a scholarship which will enable him to continue his education this fall at Chico State. Although he will be missed, he has promised to make a “guest appearance” or two at Kenneth Hahn if some our school tours coincide with his winter or spring break. We are all very excited for him and his opportunity to work towards his goal of becoming a professor while attending a California State University.

Other interns made huge contributions to the program during the 2014-2015 school year, and we hope they will be available our next round during the 2015-2016 school year. Katrina Liu got some hands-on practice with students as she pursues a teaching career at LMU. Carolyn Canterbury came to the rescue of our sadly neglected Facebook page, and used her talents beautifully to spread the word about our program through social media. You can check out her work on Facebook at: 

Okoy Dillon brought humor and style to the organization; his overheard greeting to the visiting students who were the victims of a late bus was priceless: “Okay, gentle people—let’s boogie!”. Joanna Ruacho continues to win the award for most consistent and reliable intern—she can always be counted upon to be present, with virtually one hundred percent attendance. Maura Estrada was only able to participate for the first half of the year due to scheduling conflicts with her studies, but her calm, patient and pleasant demeanor lingered and helped to set the tone for the remainder of the year.

Carolyn Canterbury & Okoy Dillon, College Interns at Kenneth Hahn.

Kenneth Hahn interns Carolyn Canterbury and Okoy Dillon go the extra mile and staff the Los Angeles Audubon table for Earth Day celebration at the Cabrillo Aquarium.

As our Education Division of LAAS has discovered during its work with students from Dorsey High and Leo Politi Elementary, the youngest students love to listen to the “big kids”, and are able to relate to them in a way that is different from their interaction with older adults. At Kenneth Hahn we are fortunate to have a range of ages amongst our volunteers, which has helped to create a rich and unique program. Participation of local schools continues to grow, and over a thousand students took part in our program this year. Some of the schools were new to our field trips, and many were repeat visitors. In fact, we have already received requests from teachers and principals to reserve spots for the next school year! Our stellar volunteers and interns make it all happen, and as Program Director I would like to say I am profoundly proud and grateful to all that have helped our program at Kenneth Hahn evolve into a high quality educational offering that has had a positive effect on the many that it involves.


Western Tanager Vol. 81 No. 6 July August 2015 (PDF)