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Connecting Our Communities to State Parks

Updated: Aug 6, 2019


How to deliver a message.

As naturalists, we are frequently speaking in front of audiences, the California Naturalist Learning Program (CNLP) provided us support in strengthening our public speaking skills.

We first worked on delivering an elevator pitch that was formatted in a timeline of when we started as CNC Naturalist graduates then to how we advanced in other outdoor career development programs and internships with CNC or with other outdoor and environmental organizations and agencies. We expanded what we had in our elevator pitch into a PechaKucha 20x20 presentation, where we had 20 slides to deliver each in 20 seconds. We additionally incorporated how our early life experiences significantly shaped our first outdoor experiences. We also connected how these career development experiences have supported and have inspired our future and career aspirations. Some of us included the advocacy work we’ve done in policy to increase access in the outdoors. We closed up our presentation by highlighting how the California Naturalist Leadership Training helped us sharpen our naturalist skills.

Although we all felt challenged in delivering these presentation formats in a timely matter, it helped us improve our presentation skills when being timed. Not to mention, we all had fun and shared laughs as we practiced, not beating ourselves up when one of us got stuck or when we couldn’t remember our next point. This kind of practice definitely builds on our confidence as naturalist. We also feel a lot more prepared to present or talk about our relationship to the outdoors and how our experiences have shaped where we are today.

Writing an interpretive outline.

Before leading an interpretive program, we must design an outline first, a critical step that many of us were not too comfortable with. Therefore, learning how to plan and create an outline was extremely helpful when preparing for an interpretive program. We got the chance to come up with an interpretive outline while we visited Los Angeles Historic Park, coming up with ways of how to teach the history or activate the natural environment. We all got the chance to start an interpretive outline from start to finish. As a final step, we created our own interpretive programs as practice.

Learning how to do community outreach and how to apply it to reach new audiences.

As Community Naturalists, we learned that when we are doing outreach in the community, we are considering the mission of Community Nature Connection. Therefore, that means working alongside communities who are limited to green spaces or have no green spaces in their area. We all selected an electoral district in Los Angeles to work with. Then we reached out to an established organization working directly with these communities. Before we sought a potential partner, we also learned professional etiquette by going over emails in a work environment. We went over how to set up our work emails and how to respond, along with what not to do and what to be careful with. Once we found a potential partner in our selective districts we then moved on to contacting them in order to introduce who we are and what we do as an organization. We informed them that we were interested in collaborating on an outdoor interpretive program at a California State Park. We listened to their needs and found ways to offer programs that would meet their interests while connecting them to State Parks.

Takeaways from risk management in programs.

In the training we also covered risk management and its importance when running a program in the outdoors. We went over how to prepare before the start of a program to make sure we had the right materials and the proper information in case of an emergency. This means taking into consideration the weather and the potential hazards that can occur among many other factors. Preparing for an outdoor programs means also having a first-aid kit available during the program. This knowledge is extremely helpful for us to know since we are working with all ages in places with little or no signal at all. Preparing for an emergency beforehand allows us to have control in preventing a situation from worsening or even taking place. Knowing how to minimize risk is critical and high-priority when we are in the field.

In summary, the variety of training we received on delivering a message, writing an interpretive outline, approaching a community partner, and learning risk management have all been essential to enhancing our community naturalist skills. We put these skills to use as we each led our own programs at California State Parks.


Our Community Programs


Date: May 19, 2019

Community group: East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

State Park visited: Will Rogers State Park

Number of people served: 9

Description and highlights:

I worked with the community group East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. They are a group that is located in both Lynwood and Commerce. They build awareness of environmental injustices created by manufacturing factories in East LA. They advocate for healthier communities and hold meetings weekly and organize campaigns where they can bring awareness to the public about thel issues. They were most interested in learning about the native plants and relaxing in nature. The program I delivered was an informative hike about plants and animals. At first, when we arrived at the park, I covered Maslows, meaning I addressed all of their basic needs to ensure everyone was comfortable and ready for the hike. I established the length of the hike and what to expect. Then after, I went over the history of the park and answered any questions that the group had. Throughout the hike, I went over the Mediterranean climate of California and different types of plants and animals that are around the area. I talked about plants that are native, and not native, and the ethnobotany history and functions of each of the plants. The hike and the overall program went well. Everyone had fun and we played games along the way, so it made the experience even better. I learned how to manage time wisely on the trail. I was nervous going into this program because it would be my first time taking the lead and answering all the questions that the public may have. However, after a few hours it was not as difficult as I expected and the program went smoothly. I learned that it also takes a lot of planning and preparation before going into a program.



Date: May 25, 2019

Community group: Youth United Towards Environmental Protection

State Park visited: Leo Carrillo State Beach

Number of people served: 8

Description and highlights:

The group consisted of 8 members from high school to college level participants all from the San Fernando Valley. The program became a hybrid program and a culmination of my interests! The day started at Pacoima City Hall and transported to Peter Strauss Ranch where short restoration activities took place! First participants weeded around native plants planted from the Peter Strauss Ranch Restoration Internship and then they collected seeds from two native plants on site to propagate later, these plants were California Poppies and Owl’s Clover. After that the group was transported to Leo Carillo State beach for lunch and a marine biology program, where I taught them about waves and why our beaches are different around the world. This led into the participants looking for animals near the tide pools, and me giving information on each animal they found (mussels, crabs, and chiton) talking about their physiology, adaptations, and habitats. At the end I covered why the ocean is important and why restoration is important, covering what we did that day and let the group enjoy sometimes at the beach before heading back to complete our day. It was cool to see the feedback even with small things like “Wow, I didn’t know crabs molted, I kinda want to look that up now” and “I haven’t been out like this since I was a kid, we should all go out again sometime.'' The small things that made me happy about this program was knowing that the timing of the activities were smooth. There are definitely several lessons I learned by doing this program. First of all, know your audience! I always try to personalize my speeches and activities to specific audiences, but I learned that it is also worth to take another step ahead and learn more about the audience to peak their interest and schedule around them. I also learned that I should always try to show my interests when it is appropriate to do so, I think my energy for things I was interested in really helped the participants get engaged! Lastly I learned that unexpected turn of events should be prepared for, but not too stressed over my program went through a lot of changes and challenges but it turned into something I thoroughly enjoyed and am proud of! To be able to share my interests with the community is something I strive for and will continue to do so with the knowledge from this program!



Date: March 30, 2019

Community group: Promatorx

State parks visited: Will Rogers State Park

Number of people served: 25

Description and highlights:

The program started at Los Angeles State Historic Park where the Promatorx community group bases their activities out of. We then headed to Will Rogers State Park. We were joined by three California State Park rangers. Before the start of the program I had everybody use the restroom and get water. We then gathered everybody together and we did an ice breaker. I had everybody say their name, their first nature moment, and their gender pronoun. I had scouted the park the day before, so I knew what trail to do. The hike took about two hours round trip. At the top of the trail I did a wildlife program, talking about the many wildlife that use the park. I also brought out some pelts so they can look and touch them. And we finished it off with a coyote game. We then headed back down to have lunch at the picnic area. This group was incredible, they shared all their food with everybody. After lunch my coworker led a guided meditation with the whole group. This was awesome mostly being at such a beautiful place like Will Rogers State Park. We then finished out the day by having everybody say what they were thankful for. We had two people who were thankful for having the opportunity to go on their first hike. One of the community members mentioned that they were happy about feeling included and given the opportunity to share their gender pronouns. After this we headed back home. The hike was great, since I was able to check it out the day before I knew the best places to take the group. Being able to get to the lookview was a great moment for everybody.



Date: April 7, 2019

Community group: Pacoima Beautiful

State Parks visited: Malibu Creek State Park

Number of people served: 9

Description and highlights:

I delivered an interpretive program on Fire Ecology to the Naturalist Explorers. Malibu Creek State Park had parts of it that were directly impacted by the Woolsey Fire and were great areas to visually study and speak on Fire Ecology. We hiked through a recent burn area where fresh mugwort and other native plants were already thriving just a few months after the Woolsey Fire. The participants learned about our unique Mediterranean Climate and how its characteristics provide us with the vegetation we have today along with the adaptations of wildlife and plants go through before and after a wildfire. Participants also got to learn the history of wildfires in Southern California, efforts being done by firefighters to prepare for the fire season, and how to prepare their homes from being impacted by a fire. We also engaged in the discussion of how fires have impacted their communities in terms of air quality and the kind of resources a city will receive during and after a fire. All participants were startled to find out that wildfires can negatively impact a plant community because it can limit their growth rate and can have the potential to keep a plant from regrowing. “I was not aware that the Santa Ana winds are a huge part of why we have our fires. I really didn’t learn this anywhere until right now. I’ve also had to move due to the fires in my home in Sylmar and I have asthma so the smoke is sensitive to me.” “I find it interesting that we didn’t have fires yearly but instead every 40-60 years, our climate is changing and it’s only getting hotter.” My biggest takeaway is that we should continue to teach Fire Ecology, most of the lesson was completely new to the participants and at least one person had been impacted or had to be evacuated due to the fires in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Not only are these participants coming from communities where there is already limited access to green spaces but they are also being limited to the knowledge of how wildlife and plants are impacted by wildfires and how they are also play an important role in preventing wildfires.


The Community Naturalist Leadership Program is a multi-week leadership and career training program designed and implemented by Community Nature Connection and made possible by funding from California State Parks Foundation.


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