- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
As a child, Sandra Bonilla had a strong connection with the natural world, however, when she grew up and began introducing people of color from Southern California's poorest neighborhoods to local mountains and forests, she said they felt marginalized.
“Almost immediately I saw the outdoor showcased as place for white privilege families, and those of us with colorful backgrounds were not welcomed,” Bonilla said. “As time went on, I realized that my own people were no longer being connected to nature and that our youth had no idea what was camping, or hiking or just enjoying the flight of birds through the top of Jeffrey Pines.”
Bonilla founded the Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps of the Inland Empire. The program offers young men and women paid work in environmental conservation on meaningful projects where they develop skills that increase job readiness.
To further enhance the educational aspect of the program, the conservation corps partnered with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) California Naturalist and 4-H Youth Development programs to train a group of corps members to become certified naturalists as part of a unique cohort called Los Naturalistas.
With funding from the National Forest Foundation, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development advisor Claudia Diaz Carrasco and conservation corps staff members Gaby Nunez and Lizzet Pineda met with the cohort every Saturday for four months to coordinate presentations by the U.S. Forest Service, CalFire and other professionals and to cultivate an appreciation for the beautiful natural resources that surround their community. The group also gathered for weekly cafecitos, early morning study sessions that helped all the participants get through the training materials together.
Translated materials, creative teaching methods, a diverse expert speaker pool, and incorporation of the strengths the students bring to the table ensured that the cohort received training that was culturally relevant. All 12 emerged as Los Naturalistas, ready to make positive changes in environmental justice and access to public spaces for their communities through nature and Spanish-language interpretation.
“I give thanks to people such as Fabian Garcia, USDA Forest Service; Henry Herrera, CalFire; and Claudia Diaz, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, who are making new career pathways for Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans and are ensuring that programs such as Los Naturalistas are changing the color of green outdoor spaces,” Bonilla said.
Diaz Carrasco's involvement in the movement was sparked by an early-career research project funded by UC ANR to identify the most effective ways to reach Latinx communities.
“We found out it's best to go through organizations that are already connected with youth and families,” Diaz Carrasco said.
To learn how to encourage families and youth to participate, engage and stay involved over time, she interviewed leaders of organizations serving this population.
“We were able to identify 25 guiding principles for successful engagement with Latinx families and youth,” she said. “Things like creating a positive ethnic identity, responding to economic poverty, including families and communities, and recruiting culture brokers help build bridges. A lot of these concepts guided the development of Los Naturalistas.”
(For more on the guiding principles for reaching and engaging Latinx youth in youth development, see https://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/19-14-02-FA-03)
The Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps was a natural partner. They had a diverse corps membership and sought educational opportunities to complement the job skills their corps were gaining through field work.
“Los Naturalistas is a college-level course. You need to do the homework. You need to do the reading. When they get their certification, the participants learn that they can be successful in a college course,” Diaz Carrasco said.
With renewed confidence, the newly minted Naturalistas are encouraged to complete their high school diplomas and enroll in community college classes. They are also charged with completing volunteer time in natural stewardship, education and service. One way they can do that is by sharing their experiences and offering nature instruction to younger members of their communities.
“Instead of me directly reaching the youth, I was able to train corps members to generate interest in California's natural world and the career opportunities available to people who pursue an education. The crew is helping me hit my target audiences,” Diaz Carrasco said. “Part of my work in UC ANR is to mix science and culture. If don't do this work, there are few bilingual people who are able to teach this.”
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in the present moment and accepting it without judgement. Benefits include reduced stress, better concentration, less depression and anxiety and a stronger immune system.
Even before the pandemic, the UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Healthy Living leadership team – Anne Iaccopucci, UCCE Healthy Living academic coordinator; Dorina Espinoza, youth, families and communities (YFC) advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties; and Marcel Horowitz, UCCE healthy youth, families and communities advisor in Yolo County – recognized that youth appeared to be struggling with anxiety and emotional challenges. An examination of published research showed that youth programs were successfully using mindfulness practices to help young people who had developmental challenges or behavioral disturbances.
With mindfulness gaining greater mainstream interest, Iaccopucci joined with YFC advisor Katherine Soule, and University of New Hampshire, Durham, youth and family resiliency state specialist Kendra Lewis to investigate the use of mindfulness for growth and development in people without serious conditions, but struggling with challenges of modern life.
“The 4-H Healthy Living team wanted to make sure we were addressing the social-emotional development of young people, so we investigated how we can integrate mindfulness into our programs,” Iaccopucci said.
The team designed an annual weekend UC 4-H Mindfulness Retreat for youth and adults to build skills in mindfulness, stress management, relationship building and community connection. Three-day retreats were held over four consecutive years in Cambria, a peaceful beach community on California's Central Coast.
Lessons in yoga, art and nature exploration were combined with quiet reflection, socialization and emotional-regulation training led by experts with extensive knowledge in those mindfulness methods. “Hangout time” was electronics-free; participants were encouraged to spend time getting to know one another or practicing self-reflection.
A survey completed by participants at the end of the retreats helped leaders improve the activity year-to-year and gauge the program's success. Both youths and adults said they were satisfied with their experiences at the retreat, wanted to participate again and would recommend the experience to others, the retreat team reported in the August 2020 issue of the Journal of Extension.
As part of the completion survey, the youths and adults were asked to provide examples of how their new skills and knowledge in mindfulness can be applied in their daily lives, how it can be applied in 4-H, what they liked best and what they would change.
One youth mentioned, “Giving skills back to my 4-H club, or when I am stressed, going back to what I learned.” An adult said, “More present for my family. I will be more mindful in my daily life! Take at least 6 deep breaths in my daily life or day to day.”
One youth said, “I can pass my new knowledge down to the youth in my county or across the state.”
Another youth wrote that the best part was, “Learning how to stay calm and having fun.”
To read the full report on the retreats, see Engaging Teens and Adults in Mindfulness: The University of California 4-H Mindfulness Retreat.
Hosting a mindfulness retreat is a vast undertaking that may not be practical for individual 4-H clubs or other youth groups. To extend the benefits of mindfulness to more youth across California and the nation, the Healthy Living Team developed curricula that can be used by 4-H clubs and other youth-serving organizations – such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys' and Girls' Clubs, etc.
For example, one lesson focuses on naming and describing feelings. The lesson explains that feelings – such as happy and sad – visit for a time like houseguests, and centers on a book called “Visiting Feelings” by Lauren Rubenstein. The author suggests that feelings should be viewed with “wide open eyes.”
“Is it bright like the sun, dark like the rain, or is it a look you can't even explain?” says the text. “If you listen to what your body can say, you'll find that your feelings are really OK.”
Each lesson includes a connected activity. For naming and describing feelings, the children can choose a feeling to explore, write it down and draw what the feeling looks like – a prickly plant, a bouncy ball, a present?
The curriculum is available on the Shop4-H.org website for $39.95. Videos were created to accompany the curriculum and are available on the eXtension website with the purchase of the curriculum. (Visit https://campus.extension.org/enrol/index.php?id=1839, create and account and use the enrollment code California to view the videos.)
The curriculum is available on the Shop4-H.org website for $39.95.
A three-page 4-H Mindfulness Project guide is available for free download. The guide is designed for 4-H Clubs, but it is useful for any teacher or leader to share the benefits of mindfulness. Some suggested activities include creating a portfolio of favorite places that help the participants feel relaxed, start a gratitude journal to document the things they are grateful for, explore food using all five senses or host a self-reflective nature walk in the local community.
The publication also suggests how youth can develop leadership skills related to the mindfulness project by becoming a Healthy Living Officer, a junior or teen leader for a mindfulness project and plan and prepare a mindfulness exercise for a community club meeting.
To learn more about the 4-H Youth Development program in local communities across California, see http://4h.ucanr.edu/
- Author: Ricardo A. Vela
The CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Program, administered through UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE), works with ethnic communities to transform their environment by implementing a community garden. UCCE created three gardens in partnership with community organizations in an equal number of neighborhoods located in this populous county.
In the first one, adults and minors dug and planted seeds and various vegetable plants in a community garden located in Riverside's popular Latino neighborhood. The vegetable garden has brought people in this low-resource community together to address healthy food access and learn about healthy eating and nutrition.
Gonzalo Rodríguez, an active member of the Community Settlement Association, said, "We planted pepper plants, tomatoes and little seeds. Vegetables are an excellent food for us, and another thing that keeps children off the streets and helps them understand the process while having fun taking care of their plants."
The garden in this thriving Latino community has grown over the years and is now a place for families to get together to celebrate healthy living. Educating food-insecure families of different ethnicity, the importance of having a vegetable garden, and how to grow your own food is a goal of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Program, and UCCE in Riverside County.
The second garden is located on what used to be a vacant lot in the Riverside Faith Temple under Pastor Duane Sims' supervision, who spoke about his vision. "I would like to see it a complete food force, a source of food that won't cost anybody anything, and something for people that don't have anything to do, a place to put their hands in the dirt and accomplish something."
These community gardens collaborate with several programs from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and partner with ethnic organizations to combat the poor eating habits that result in obesity, chronic diseases, and sometimes premature death.
"We're trying to get low-income families to eat more vegetables, and the best way to do this is to encourage them to plant their own fruits and vegetables in an orchard, and that's why we're promoting community gardens," said Chutima Ganthavorn, UCCE nutrition specialist in Riverside County.
Adela Torres and her children are involved in the project with the Community Settlement Association in Riverside. "It's beneficial for the children because they are fresh fruits or things that we can have at home," she said.
Ganthavorn reaffirmed the UCCE and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC's commitment to helping ethnic communities live a healthier diet. "We know that many people's diets today are fast food and soft drinks, and they are not consuming fruits and vegetables. We need to eat almost nine portions of fruits and vegetables a day, and most of us aren't getting close to that level. We are trying to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables because they contain many nutrients and many health benefits," she said.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Coyote conflicts with Californians are on the rise, with reports of urban coyotes biting people and killing pets. In July, two people were bitten by a coyote in separate attacks on a trail in Mission Viejo. Recently one elusive coyote has been linked by DNA tests to biting attacks on two children and three adults in the East Bay Area. To better understand coyote behavior, University of California Cooperative Extension advisor Niamh Quinn has been collaring and tracking coyotes in the Los Angeles area.
In urban areas, hazing is often used to frighten coyotes and deter them from approaching people. Although waving arms and shouting at urban coyotes are commonly thought to drive the animals away, no research has been done to determine whether hazing truly changes coyote behavior. Human and wildlife interactions expert Quinn is studying the movement of urban coyotes to find out how effective hazing is.
With funding from the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission and the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures Project, Quinn bought GPS tracking collars and pays for game cameras to find the coyotes.
“Without the support of the county we wouldn't have a project,” said Quinn, who is based at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and LA County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures share the goal of learning how to more effectively manage coyotes. Because so little information is available, this project is expected to help both county and municipal managers who have found themselves involved more frequently in the management of wildlife over the last decade.
A documentary by Benjamin Fargen describes Quinn's research. In “Coyote Conflict in Los Angeles - The UCANR Hazing Study,” Fernando Barrera of Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures says about 60 pets were taken from people's homes in a three-month period near a park in the county. LA County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures sets out humane traps that are designed specifically to catch coyotes and for quick release of other species.
“They help set and unset traps, scout for new trapping sites and are there in the middle of the night to help me handle the coyote when we trap them,” Quinn said.
Although they know where coyotes are, catching them to put collars on isn't easy. In the documentary, Quinn describes watching via game camera monitor as coyotes approach traps, but not close enough to get caught.
“We wouldn't be able to do this research without a team,” Quinn said. “For scientific research, we need different ideas to come from people with different expertise. It can be a frustrating mix of trying to get all the team together, our veterinarian Curtis Eng of Western University of Health Sciences has to be available, the trappers have to be available and I have to be available.”
Quinn monitors her phone for alerts constantly. “I'm listening for the buzz of my phone to tell me there's something there.”
To date, Quinn's team has collared 19 coyotes. One coyote she has dubbed “Lazy Legs” has a range of about a half-mile, partly in natural habitat, but often in neighborhoods. In contrast, a female collared coyote has ranged 7 to 10 miles.
“You can see that she hangs out in the natural areas, but also dips in and out of the neighborhoods,” Quinn said. “She's probably choosing to go into the neighborhoods to find maybe some trash, maybe cats, or maybe even some rats because we know they eat rats. We know they eat a lot of cats and they eat a lot of bunnies.”
After a coyote killed her cat in 2011, Debora Martin launched Coyotes of Orange County to educate pet owners how to keep their pets safe from coyotes. She praises Quinn's Coyote Cacher website https://ucanr.edu/coyotecacher for the map showing where community members have reported coyotes have been sighted. “Based on that information, things can be done,” she said.
Torrance Police Department has also partnered with Quinn to learn about wildlife management and to educate the public about coyotes. Residents may unintentionally attract coyotes by leaving pets and pet food outside or fruit that falls from trees in their yards.
“Coyote Conflict in Los Angeles - The UCANR Hazing Study” can be viewed for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEnqU24RgAU&feature=youtu.be. To learn more about the coyote hazing research, visit https://www.ucscurri.com/hazing and follow Cosmopolitan Coyotes on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/cosmopolitancoyotes.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. The coyote conflict project and other UC ANR programs rely on donor contributions. To learn more about how to support human and wildlife interactions research, visit https://donate.ucanr.edu/?fund_id=1145.
At UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, we make recommendations based on science. We are now joining with many organizations to present factual information about the COVID-19 vaccines to help people make informed decisions about being vaccinated.
Below are facts and resources about COVID-19.
Myths and Facts (UC Davis)
Fact Check: Are there microchips in vaccines? No.
Fact Check: Is there a sterility risk? No.
Fact Check: Are there fetal cells in vaccines? No.
Fact Check: Were vaccines developed too fast to be safe? No.
Join these famous people in being vaccinated:
- President Joe Biden
- Vice President Kamala Harris
- Former President George Bush
- Former Vice President Mike Pence
- Journalist Stephanie Elam
- Dr. Anthony Fauci
- UN Secretary-General António Guterres
- UC President Michael Drake
- Celebrity Martha Stewart
More on why vaccination is safe and important:
- Sadly, Jan. 21, 2021 was the day when the COVID death toll in the U.S. reached, and then exceeded, the 405,399 Americans who died in World War II. On Feb. 22, deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19 passed 500,000.
- While many are concerned about the vaccines, even back in December, communities were growing in confidence that the vaccine is safe. By December 2020, numbers intending to get the vaccine had already grown to above 60%. (Pew Research December 2020)
- Centers for Disease Control: How to Protect Yourself and Others
- California Department of Public Health Covid guidance (CDPH)
- Make vaccination appointments, check your eligibility, or sign up for alerts at https://myturn.ca.gov/
- For more links and resources, see COVID-19 Vaccines
View a video here in which UC President Michael Drake, a medical doctor, speaks on the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.