Which local program has finished nearly three hundred habitat improvement projects, mostly on farms, as part of formal high school course work? The answer is SLEWS (Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship), which teaches the next generation of farmers and natural resource stewards to restore habitat, while learning science hands-on.
SLEWS is a program at the Center for Land-Based Learning. Located in Woodland, CLBL seeks to motivate people, especially youth, to create a positive interplay among agriculture, nature, and society. From an Audubon perspective, SLEWS is the conservation arm of CLBL.
Having just completed its eighteenth year, SLEWS engages area high schools, including Woodland, Pioneer, Davis and Winters, in habitat projects, planting thousands of native trees and herbaceous plants each year. This past winter, Yolo Audubon Society joined in to help students build and install nest boxes for songbirds at the Capay Open Space Park. The 2019-20 school year also saw projects at the Putah/Dry Creek confluence in Winters and Yanci Ranch near Madison, where YAS has supported tricolored blackbird habitat. There were also projects at River Garden Farms, north of Knights Landing; Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (described in my February 2019 column); and the Maples, where CLBL is headquartered.
Each class makes three to five visits to its project site, learning to plant, install irrigation, control weeds, conduct ecological surveys, and chart progress. SLEWS relies on guest speakers and volunteer mentors from the local community to provide specialized expertise in topics about nature and science. Mentors work closely with a small group of students, both to help with project tasks and inspire participants by sharing their educational and career paths.
YAS members could fulfill such roles. Mentors will be recruited this summer for the next school year, assuming that the COVID-19 emergency subsides. If you want to know more, please contact Eva Dwyer, SLEWS coordinator, at Eva@Landbasedlearning.org or call her at (707) 364-2932.