Meiners Oaks Students in Mrs. Janis Duncan's 4th grade class get a closer look at the Flora and Fauna at the Ojai Meadows Preserve through brand new binoculars thanks to a grant from the Ojai Education Foundation.
One would expect Meiners Oaks Elementary School, with its strong reputation for both academic achievement and environmental consciousness, to deliver a unique and fun way to bring its students “closer to nature”. So it was no surprise that 3rd grade teacher Teresa Lessing spearheaded a grant request to OEF on behalf of the entire school to purchase a set of state-of-the-art binoculars for its students to use during regular walking trips through the Ojai Meadows Preserve. And since receiving their OEF grant earlier in the school year, both students and teachers have experienced a whole new perspective and a deeper appreciation of the natural beauty that “The Meadow” offers.
“The Ojai Meadow is less than a five minute walk from our campus. So we are very fortunate to be able to take the kids there for nature walks and science lessons, and to experience first hand the great ‘live show’ that these amazing wetlands provide, ” said Lessing. “And the binoculars give our students a unique perspective of the plants and wildlife located literally in our own backyard that might otherwise be missed with the naked eye,” Lessing added.
Lessing said that the school’s 4th grade classes go to the meadow weekly for Life Science lessons. She also estimates that the Preserve is visited regularly from any one of the school’s Kindergarten - 6th grade classes, including Mrs. Duncan & Mrs. Mendoza’s upper grade classes who meet their ‘Nordhoff buddies’ at the Preserve once a month.
Using the binoculars, students have observed various species of plants and animals in the Meadow including baby owls and other birds. "I like binoculars because you can see far away,” said Cristian Perez, age 8. “They have straps so you can hang them on your neck. At recess I saw baby redtail hawks and their mom was feeding them. Super cool!"
The OEF grant underwrote the purchase of approximately 25 binoculars. After seeing the immediate impact the equipment had on student learning, the school purchased additional binoculars to grow the set to 35 binoculars. The School’s PTA was also inspired by the kids’ enhanced experience with nature and supplemented the binoculars with backpacks to hold the binoculars that included field guides and notebooks. The Optimist Club rounded out the “back to nature” experience with the purchase of beach chairs so students could be seated for note taking and relaxation while using the binoculars to take in the splendor of Ojai’s spectacular ecosystem.
The grant to Meiners Oaks was one of approximately 25 Education Grants totaling in upwards of $30,000 that was awarded by OEF to support public education in the Ojai Valley for the 2016 - 2017 school year. Glenn Fout, Board Member and Finance Chair for OEF reflected on the school year. “As the current school year comes to a close, I know I speak on behalf of my Board members when I say we continue to be inspired by all of our Ojai Valley educators. The ways in which they desire to implement thoughtful and innovative projects in their classrooms to enhance the quality of our kids’ education is incredible. It is an honor for OEF to work in partnership with our community to provide the critical funding needed to support these amazing teachers, students and projects”.