Thursday, November 03, 2011

Stunt Ranch Field Trip

Today we had our field trip to the UCLA Stunt Ranch in Calabasas. The name is somewhat misleading. It has nothing to do with movies or movie stunts - a disappointment to some of the students. Rather, it is a nature reserve and an interpretive center for Tongva and Chumash culture. It is called the "Stunt" ranch because it was first owned by a family of that name who donated it later to UCLA. It is a perfect fourth grade field trip with one exception. It's in Calabasas, so it is a very long bus ride even if there is minimal traffic.

We boarded the bus about 8:45 and took off a few minutes later - after a few nervous moments when the bus wouldn't start! The traffic was not particularly bad, but it still took us about an hour to make it there. The students were generally pretty good on the bus. Some of the parent volunteers came with us on the school bus, while others had a much more enjoyable time driving themselves.

Our guides met us at side of road and gave us a short introduction. Nancy was the guide for the group I accompanied. She was great! She was a former LAUSD teacher who happened to have been Sean Penn's first grade teacher. I guess if she could handle a future movie stare, 15 children were no problem.

As we descended from the road down into the canyon, we saw beautiful views of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Along the way, Nancy explained many things such as this gall. It is an acorn which a particular kind of wasp uses as a place to lay its eggs. That is why the acorn swells to such a size. We cut one of them open later and saw the larva of a wasp inside.

Nancy also explained about poison oak and the students all recited, "Leaves of three, let it be!"

After we walked for about a mile, we arrived at the interpretive center. The different groups from the two classes rotate through different native American activities. Nancy's group started with Chumash games.

We then went on to do a version of cave paintings. Since it is impractical to have the students descend into caves, they used sandpaper, glue, and sand to make Indian symbols.

The the technique was simple, the results were impressive.

Students also tried their hand at grinding acorns, and Nancy showed them how the native peoples cooked by placing heated rocks in the acorn mush.

We had a well-deserved lunch after this. The students grumbled about having to take their trash back with them, but they clean up their area nicely. Our walk back was about another mile, but we took this more quickly and made fewer interpretive stops,
It was along bus ride to school, and we did not arrive until after 2:30. It seemed pointless to give them homework at that point, and I was ready to go home too!

Homework:  Enjoy a free night!

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