$200K Ecology Grant to Benefit Avalon

Avalon K-12 School will pilot a program starting this month to give student hands-on lessons about ecology and the environment, thanks to a $200,000 grant awarded to the Catalina Island Conservancy.

The W.M. Keck Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations, awarded the grant for the NatureWorks program. The program’s goal is to help students develop an appreciation of ecology and the environment, making them good environmental stewards in the future.

The nonprofit Catalina Island Conservancy is one of the oldest private land trusts in Southern California. It protects 88 percent of Catalina Island, including more than 62 miles of unspoiled beaches and secluded coves—the longest publicly accessible stretch of undeveloped coastline left in Southern California

Students will take part in field ecology experiences, job-shadow environmentalists and ecologists, and learn about eco-tourism as part of the Long Beach Unified School District’s Linked Learning effort. Linked Learning programs use coursework, technical training, work-based learning and related support to create connections between high school, college and careers.

NatureWorks will serve as a workforce development project by helping to prepare Catalina students for an ecotourism career track, if they are interested in the island’s most important industry.

“The Conservancy’s trained naturalists and educators will take students into the field, where they can see firsthand how nature works and have those lifelong memories of discovery that will enrich their lives and prepare them for successful careers on and off the island,” said Ann M. Muscat, the Conservancy’s president and CEO.

The Conservancy already partners with the school, particularly at the earlier grade levels, and the latest grant will allow that partnership to extend to high school.

“We are very pleased the W.M. Keck Foundation's generous gift will make it possible for all Avalon students to continue to benefit from NatureWorks in a more strategic format,” said Avalon Principal Angelica Gonzalez. “The opportunity for students to experience science through nature and see the relevance of their education in the real world can help them accomplish even more in school and in life.”

Twenty miles from the mainland, Catalina Island is a treasure trove of historical and archaeological sites. It also contains numerous rare and endangered animals and plants. The island is home to 60 species – and counting – that are found only on Catalina.

Learn more at catalinaconservancy.org.