CalNat 2019 Winter Class 9, 04-05-19

This was our 9th (of 10) Certified California Naturalist classes for the winter session.  This week it was our “final exam”, and I put that in quotes because it’s not really a test, per se, so much as it’s a recap of what we touched on throughout the previous weeks with some species identification thrown in. We do it like a game, in teams of 5 (or less) and the members of the team that get the most answers correct win prize bags worth over $400.  Everything in the bags was donated by a variety of manufacturers, publishers, distributors and other folks. For each winner, we had a clear backpack filled with field guides and other stuff, a bluebird box, a plushie elk, a plushie Saw-whet Owl and a Tuleyome camping mug.

We started off the class with some announcements and then explained to the students how the game was to be played. Ready… set… go!

We asked about 2 hours’ worth of questions and then took a 20-minute break so folks could nosh, chat and clear their heads. I had several people tell me how much fun they were having and how much they were learning as they listened to everyone answer the questions.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

When we came back from the break, we had 6 of the students present their capstone projects. And all of them are doing such great things. The capstones are projects of the student’s own choosing, during which they have to volunteer at least 8 hours on something related to nature and/or the natural sciences.

One student created a coloring book and picture cards to teach children the names of different birds and animal in the region based on their color.  Another one updated and created new identification cards for the plants around the demonstration pond at the Yolo Basin Foundation’s main office.  A third student built a bat box of her own design based on research she did of other designs.  It had three compartments with circular “doorways” so the bats could move from one compartment to another if they wanted to.  She’d been noticing a decrease in the number of bats in the night sky around where she lived, so she built the box (and will build several others) to place around her house and neighborhood with the hopes of providing bats with more protected night roosts – in the hopes that their numbers will increase again.

A fourth student used an app to photograph and collect information on the “assets” for different parks in Yolo County. The app connected through the cloud to a detailed map of the area, so now each of the parks can see where each of their assets are in relation to others and can track their condition.  The assets recorded included everything from buildings to trails to parking lots and even water spigots related to their fire-suppression systems. Eventually, he wants to generate a map of Tuleyome’s properties and the assets on them…

Another student (with a background in archaeology) took over a box of Native American artifacts that had been sitting around at the Cache Creek Conservancy, went through them, catalogued them, and is going to work up a display case for them once he figures out the “story” they’re telling.

The last student who presented today did her capstone on researching milkweed plants and the requirements of Monarch Butterflies, so she could turn a 6 x 10 patch of dirt at a local grade school into a butterfly garden.

We still have about 11 students who will present next week during our last class, just before the graduation ceremony. I can’t wait to see what they do. I’m so proud of all of them.

After the presentations, we finished off the questions and awarded the winning team, The Might Mallards. There were only four people on that team, and we had five prize packages, so we did a drawing among the remaining students to award the last package. We broke that one down into increments, so more people could win something. One person got the camping mug and plushie owl; one got the plushie elk; one got the bird box; and the last one got the backpack full of stuff.

Next week, we’re also going to host a potluck, so everyone is supposed to bring their favorite comfort food. #CalNat

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Mary K. Hanson is an author, nature photographer and Certified California Naturalist living with terminal cancer.