Trails Education Days
The goal of Trails Education Days is to instill youngsters with an appreciation and sense of stewardship of natural open space. The program provides lessons on open space for Conejo Valley Unified School District 4th grade students every spring.
Trails Education Days Coordinator: Elayne Haggan
Each year between 1,000 and 1,200 CVUSD Fourth Grade students participate in Trails Education Days, experiencing nature hikes to Wildwood Canyon followed by three workshops about park ranger careers, trail safety and courtesy, and indigenous birds and animals. You can watch a video overview for more detail.
Trails Education Days was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We resumed the field trips the last week of April 2022.
Nearly 80 volunteers along with COSCA, MRCA, California and NPS Park Rangers contribute 800 hours to the planning, execution and follow-up for Trails Education Days each year. Without volunteers, the program could not exist.
Following their Trails Education Days outings, the students are invited to enter a letter-writing contest to describe some of the things they learned. Two winners from each school and five Grand Prize winners district-wide receive cash awards and recognition by the Thousand Oaks City Council and the CRPD Board of Directors. To see previous grand-prize winners and read their letters, visit our Recent TED Updates page.
Volunteer Job Descriptions
Volunteers can choose to help with preparation, activities on one or more field trip days, and follow-up. We are especially pleased that so many volunteers come back year after year to give a new crop of Fourth Graders valuable experience in the Conejo open space.
All volunteers are treated to snacks and lunch courtesy of COSF. A benefit to volunteers is that they meet others who share their interests and commitment to open space.
Hike leaders take groups of about twelve students on one-hour, one-mile hikes from the Wildflower Playfields to the Wildwood Nature Center via the Wildwood Canyon Trail. As many as fifteen hike leaders are needed each day.
A teacher or parent accompanies each group to keep the students focused while the leader talks about indigenous plants, animal life, geology and ecology. Vast knowledge of these subjects is not required. At intervals along the way, tags with multiple-choice questions highlight the most important points.
Volunteers who have not participated in the program previously are asked to attend a training session the week before Trails Education Days. These training sessions are conducted by professional naturalists and include a rehearsal hike to the Nature Center on Wildwood Canyon Trail.
Several people are needed each day to help keep the program running smoothly and on schedule. These volunteers unload the school groups from their buses, assign the groups to their hike leaders, set up the Nature Center for the volunteers’ snacks and lunches, usher the groups from one workshop to the next, pass out water bottles at the end of the workshops, lead groups on the short hike back to their buses and do whatever else is needed. Interested people might choose to volunteer for a day or two or for the entire week.
Trail Safety & Courtesy Workshop Participants
This workshop involves a hiker with a dog, a bicyclist and an equestrian. These trail users act out a scenario for the students that illustrates right and wrong ways to behave in the open space. Volunteers typically participate in 5 or 6 half-hour workshops each day over a total of 4 hours and volunteer for one or more days of the program.
See the current Volunteer Manual for a more detailed description of the volunteer programs. Trails Education Days is described starting on page 12.
The Conejo Open Space Foundation extends a hearty THANK YOU to these Trails Education Days sponsors, supporters, staff & volunteers:
- City of Thousand Oaks Community Events Endowment Fund
- Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency
- Conejo Recreation and Park District
- Conejo Valley Unified School District
- Animal Actors of Hollywood
- Conejo Group Sierra Club
- Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
- California State Parks
- National Park Service
Thank you! We look forward to working with you.