Sunday, June 17, 2012

White Point Nature Preserve

Assistant Nauturalist Laurie Morgan describes how the Tongva, the native inhabitants, celebrated by dancing and stomping.
 White Point Nature Center Becomes a Great Teacher in the Eyes of Young Wilmington Students Thanks to A Children's Author/Illustrator

By Diana L. Chapman

   They squealed when they saw big lizards. Stood in awe watching soaring kestrels and red-tailed hawks.  And didn't want to quit watching a stink bug crawling across the dusty earth.
   Exploring the hills and golden grasses of White Point's Nature Park , Wilmington's Gulf Street Elementary students roamed the hillsides of the 102-acre site last week, some saying they'd never been to a nature park before.
   "We saw a lot of animals today," said 10-year-old Luke Nunez. "We saw a dove, a red-tailed hawk, a beetle and snails."
   Fernanda Juarez, 10, added: "I liked when we climbed the mountain. All the kids were so tired. I liked when we smelled lilac and turned it into soap. I've never been (to a nature park) before."
   The Palos Verdes Land Conservancy -- the caretaker of the San Pedro nature preserve -- provided a team of naturalists to  guide the children where they learned what early inhabitants, the Tongva, used as resources. 
  If a person touched stinging nettle, the Tongva used the backside of leaves from a mug wort plant to sooth it. Or if someone was ailing from a stomach ache, toyon bark was used to ease the pain.
  One naturalist, Holly Gray, showed the children how to make  soap using the California lilac by dipping it into a buck of water and rubbing the plant in their hands. It became foamy with a clean scent.
A student smells the scent of California lilac.

  Enthusiastic assistant naturalist Laurie Morgan gave a lively description how the  Tongva enjoyed celebrating life.  The American Indians, she said, stomped the grounds to dance and celebrate. She began stomping and encouraged the kids to stomp too.
  "Imagine the drums," Morgan told the students about the Tongva. "It's so fun. They had a song and dance for everything. They celebrated everything."
    In addition, the students did a scavenger hunt in the hillsides that taught them about nature and provided them "with a bucket of clues," to figure out a word the naturalists were seeking  -- solar.
  The overarching theme for children is to teach them to become stewards of the land and cherish the environment, said the conservancy's education director, Siegrun Storer.
Students gather around a bucket to make California lilac soap.
   "We are first and foremost trying to expose students to open space in order to foster and appreciate it," said Storer who added she's working toward providing more White Point educational tours in the future.
   The tour was a $250 gift to 50 students from Gulf elementary. Children's author-illustrator E.G. (Elisabeth) Ryan read at the school.  Impressed with the school's cleanliness, the teachers and the student's polite behavior during her reading, she offered the school a gift.
   She wanted the students to enjoy the preserve, where she often teaches her own children, twin boys, Maximillian, and Nick, 8, and Alexa Rose, 4.