Sepulveda Basin Environmental Education Program (SBEEP)
What is SBEEP?
San Fernando Valley Audubon Society’s outstanding environmental education program, Water, Wetlands and Wildlife, takes place at the beautiful Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, near the intersection of the San Diego and Ventura Freeways. Located in the center of the urbanized San Fernando Valley, City of Los Angeles, the Wildlife Reserve provides a wildlife oasis where visitors can enjoy nature and watch or photograph birds.
Each school year, our program, in partnership with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (www.rcdsmm.org), provides teacher training and field trips to the Wildlife Area for sixty classes from the fourth, fifth and sixth grades in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Many of the nearly 2,000 children who participate in the program are from low income families and live in heavily urbanized areas in the San Fernando Valley and central city. For many of the children, the program offers their first adventure into a natural environment. The program is free to the schools except for their transportation. A city program that reduces their cost for a school bus is in jeopardy.
To prepare for the field trips, the teachers attend a day-long workshop on the ecology of riparian wetlands and receive subscriptions to Audubon Adventures and other background materials. Then, each pair of classes is invited to the Wildlife Area for a morning at our outdoor classroom. Classes that have taken the field trip over the past fifteen years have relished the opportunity to spend a morning watching birds like White Pelicans, cormorants, ducks, egrets, herons and hawks, with binoculars; studying the tiny organisms that live in the lake with microscopes; and learning about the native plants and animals. They learn about ecological interrelationships, the reclaimed water that fills the lake and creek, the riparian trees and shrubs, and the flood control basin surrounding them.
Our goal is to help LAUSD children become more knowledgeable about the natural world, more comfortable in it, more aware of their relationship to it, and more apt to care for it responsibly. For some students, the trip opens their eyes to the possibilities of scientific studies.
When a teacher requests an in-class visit, either Paula Orlovich or Dave Weeshoff will go to the school and do a presentation. Dave typically does a “pre-visit” talk with the kids to prime them for their field trip, touching on topics pertaining to wildlife, birds, what to expect and how to absorb. Paula does a”post visit” talk called Honoring Audubon’s Legacy in which the students are given a brief lesson about his work as an ornithologist and artist. The students then draw birds of the basin (see above). Some of them are amazing!
The program enjoys widespread community support. Over the years, depending on various financial constraints, SBEEP has had funding from the Los Angeles Audubon Society, in-kind contributions from the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles Unified School District and the Recreational Transit Program, a branch of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority — plus funding from other organizations such as the California Native Plant Society and the Ormsby Hill Trust. All of San Fernando Valley Audubon’s administrative functions are performed entirely by volunteers.
The budget for SBEEP runs an average of $16,500 a year, paid for by SFVAS, occasional grants, our Birdathon and contributions from our supporters.