As 2023 roared in like a lion, ushering in a series of storms, many Californians experienced some impact from flooding, power outages, fallen trees, road closures and even evacuations.
UC ANR colleagues at Elkus Ranch are continuing to deal with fallout from the storms, which swept away the bridge crossing the creek at the entrance to the property and knocked out the water pump.
“The New Year's storm washed out our bridge and severely restricted our access to Elkus Ranch,” said Frank McPherson, UCCE Bay Area director, by email on Jan. 11. “We currently have no vehicle access to the ranch and a few critical team members are only able to cross the stream via a bucket lift.
Staff members – as well as the goats, sheep, rabbits and other animals that live at Elkus Ranch – are fine, McPherson said. However, all events at Elkus Ranch for January and February events have been cancelled. McPherson is concerned not only that the facility isn't available to the San Mateo County community, but also because fees charged for events are used to pay for animal feed, veterinary services and some staff salaries.
He has been directing people who want to help to the donation button on the Elkus Ranch website.
As of Jan. 30, the power has been restored, but Elkus Ranch staff members are still slowly crossing the 30 feet over Purisima Creek by bucket lift to feed and care for the animals and tend to critical ranch operations.
“If all goes well, we should have a bridge in six weeks,” said Leslie Jensen, Elkus Ranch coordinator.
After the bridge is replaced, McPherson hopes to bring in portable toilets and bottled water while the water system is being repaired to reopen Elkus Ranch and resume programs by April.
- Author: Ricardo A. Vela
Un grupo de 120 estudiantes de quinto y sexto grado de la Escuela Primaria Cherryland, localizada en la Ciudad de Hayward, participaron recientemente, en el taller de 11 semanas del programa 4-H Water Wizards que incluyó además un viaje de aprendizaje al Centro de Educación Ambiental UC Elkus Ranch, en Half Moon Bay en donde aprendieron diferentes aspectos sobre la importancia del agua.
"Encontré tantas cosas, vi un cangrejo ermitaño, una estrella de mar, una anémona de mar", exclamó un estudiante de quinto grado participó en taller donde aprendió temas como:los ciclos del agua, las cuencas hidrográficas, la salinidad, la densidad del agua y los problemas del agua.
4-H Water Wizards es un programa de estudio patrocinado por Extensión Cooperativa de la Universidad de California, UCCE que tiene como propósito que estudiantes de bajos recursos, la mayoría latinos y afroamericanos tengan acceso a la ciencia práctica desde temprana edad a través de actividades que desarrollan con científicos latinos de UCANR que hablan en su idioma y se identifiquen con ellos.
En un mundo cada vez más complejo es crucial que los estudiantes adquieran habilidades, que los ayuden a analizar información, recaudar datos, observar y proponer ideas para resolver problemas y esto es precisamente lo que se aprende en 4-H Water Wizards que brinda a los niños y adolescentes la oportunidad de conocer y platicar con varios científicos y explorar oportunidades en las ciencias, tecnología, educación y matemáticas, grupos de estudio, conocido como STEM.
"Estoy muy feliz nos haya invitado al Rancho Elkus para que mis estudiantes puedan ser parte de esta gran oportunidad de experimentar la vida del rancho y conocer más sobre el mar", dijo JoDana Campbell, maestra de quinto grado de Cherryland Elementary.
Maestros y estudiantes hablaron con numerosos científicos sobre el agua, su uso y conservación. “Nos explicaron cómo funciona el agua, no solo en California, sino en general, en el mundo", dijo Campbell.
En el viaje de aprendizaje práctico, los estudiantes aprendieron, a través de una maqueta que representaba un modelo del medioambiente a pequeña escala, cómo es que el agua de lluvia se transporta a través de una comunidad.
Los jóvenes colocaron casas de plástico en la maqueta que simulaba el medioambiente y formaron arcilla en las paredes y presas para proteger sus casas de una posible inundación, tras observar una lluvia intensa, simulada en su comunidad y luego hablaron sobre los resultados.
"¡La presa lo empeoró!", dijo un estudiante.
"Tal vez deberíamos eliminar la presa", dijo Cassie Bonfil, estudiante de postgrado de UC Davis. "El agua podría fluir naturalmente hacia el río, con esto estamos impidiéndole ir al río y, va a subir hacia las casas".
Samuel Sandoval Solís, especialista en Extensión Cooperativa de la UCANR demostró a los estudiantes el movimiento del agua, cómo se va filtrando del suelo hacia el subsuelo y cómo es que el agua se bombea de los acuíferos hacia los pozos.
“Es muy importante que los jóvenes latinos y de otras etnias vean y escuchen a científicos que son como ellos, que les hablan en español sobre temas tan vitales para nuestra entidad como es el abastecimiento y conservación del agua”, dijo Sandoval Solís.
Entre otras actividades efectuados en el UC Elkus Ranch, se alentó a los estudiantes a tocar y oler plantas que podrían usarse para hacer jabones, ungüentos y otros productos.
“Me gusta mucho”, dijo Isaac, uno de los estudiantes participantes. “Me gustan mucho los ranchos, ha sido una gran experiencia, no es mi primera experiencia con animales, porque yo también soy de un rancho”, agregó entusiasmado el estudiante de quinto grado de la escuela Cherryland.
El viaje de aprendizaje práctico y el curso en sí, es el primero de una serie de eventos similares que tendrán lugar en los próximos cinco años con el fin de que jóvenes de comunidades menos privilegiadas puedan experimentar los beneficios de la ciencia en el medioambiente, especialmente en el agua y la crianza de animales de rancho.
El plan de estudios y el educador son subsidiados por el Instituto Nacional de Alimentos y Agricultura del USDA, pero para contratar más autobuses y transportar a los estudiantes a Elkus Ranch para el aprendizaje práctico al aire libre, McPherson está ejecutando una campaña de recaudación de fondos. Las personas que deseen hacer algún donativo favor de enviar su cheque al proyecto Bay Area 4-H Water Wizards , también se puede donar a través de este enlace: https://donate.ucanr.edu/?program=California 4-H&county=Alameda.
Curious goats milled around the masked elementary school students who were raking out the livestock stalls. After a year of social distancing due to COVID-19 precautions, the goats were enthralled by the youngsters who visited UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in San Mateo County.
“The animals were missing kids, they're used to getting more loving,” said Beth Loof, 4-H youth community educator at Elkus Ranch. “Goats are really social. They get distressed when they are alone.”
Tucked behind the rolling green hills of Half Moon Bay off state Route 1, Elkus Ranch is a working landscape that, in a normal year, hosts people from all over the San Francisco Bay Area for field trips, conferences, community service projects, internships and summer camps.
During the pandemic, UC ANR has limited visitors to “social bubbles” of children and adults for outdoor education at the 125-acre ranch, which has implemented a variety of COVID protocols for the safety of visitors. During Adventure Days, young people spend four hours caring for animals, tending gardens, making a nature-themed craft project and hiking around the property.
“We would love to bring children from urban areas of the Bay Area to Elkus Ranch,” said Frank McPherson, director of UC Cooperative Extension for Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San Francisco counties. “So they can learn where food comes from, before it gets to the grocery store.”
On a sunny spring day, 11 students from Share Path Academy in San Mateo visited for Adventure Day, as their first field trip of the year.
“Coming here and having the hands-on learning, being able to hold objects, touch objects, interact with things, it's all part of learning,” said Erin McCoy, a Share Path Academy teacher. “In science, you can talk about certain things in classes, but when you come out here and you actually apply it to what they're doing and it's tactile for them, at this age, it's really important.”
The group – composed of McCoy, nine fifth-graders, a fourth-grader, a sixth-grader and a couple of parents – spent the day outdoors petting the donkeys, goats, chickens, rabbits and sheep and learning about the animals that live at Elkus Ranch.
“I think it's been a great opportunity for our children to be outdoors and to enjoy nature, to reconnect with the environment – animals, plants, just the outdoors,” said parent Christina Cabrera. “It's great for the children and the adults accompanying them.”
Inside the barn, Loof invited the students to sit on straw bales – not the hay bales, which are food for the livestock. She showed the students how wool that is sheared from sheep's coats is spun into yarn. First, they carded the wool. “You're going to card it like this. It's like brushing your hair, but it has a little resistance so it can be a workout,” Loof said, cautioning the students wearing shorts to be careful not to brush their skin with the sharp, wire teeth of the tool. “Get all the fibers nice and flat, lined up, going one way. Fibers are what we call all the strands of wool.”
After twisting the wool by hand into yarn, the students fashioned the natural-colored fuzzy strands into bracelets.
“We love Elkus,” said McCoy, whose son has attended summer camp at the ranch. “This place is awesome.”
Taking a break for lunch, the group walked down the dirt path from the barn past the livestock pens to wash their hands, then sat at primary-colored picnic tables to eat next to a garden.
After lunch, the students exercised their creativity with buckets of clay to mold into animals or roll out and cut with cookie cutters.
In the chicken coop, Loof, who is one of four community educators who work at Elkus Ranch, shared animal science facts such as, “Eggs are viable for two weeks after the hen sits on them in the nest.” She also told funny stories such as how Dora, the white bantam, escaped the coop and ate all the chard in the garden.
“I wish this was my school,” said one student as he held an egg-laying hen.
The visit ended with a garden tour and a game of hide and seek among the raised beds of onions, squash and other vegetables.
“Being outdoors is an important counterbalance to being on a computer,” said Cabrera, who is also a San Mateo High School wellness counselor. “It's a great addition to what we're doing. Just to be with animals.”
Elkus Ranch is still offering Adventure Days for children; the cost is $425 for 10 people. Small groups are also invited for 90-minute visits.
“If all goes well, we plan to offer a three-day mini-camp Monday through Wednesday of Thanksgiving week,” said Leslie Jensen, Elkus Ranch coordinator.
For more information about Elkus Ranch activities, visit ucanr.edu/adventure or contact Jensen at LKJensen@ucanr.edu.
- Author: Julie Finzel
- Author: Theresa Becchetti
- Author: Rebecca Ozeran
- Author: Devii Rao
UC ANR Advisors restructured Range Camp, a rangeland education program that has helped 95% of participants improve their understanding of ecosystem processes in California's rangelands, supporting a more qualified workforce.
Rangelands cover 62.9 million acres of California; almost 63% of the state. California rangelands support livestock production and provide important ecosystem services including wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities and beautiful viewsheds. California's Range and Natural Resources Camp (Range Camp) provides a five day immersive camp experience for high school students ages 15-18 focused on the science and art of range and natural resources management. The camp is held annually at UC's Elkus Ranch. For 35 years, the California-Pacific Section of the Society for Range Management organized and sponsored Range Camp. As time passed, it became clear that a new organization needed to pick up the reins of Range Camp to sustain this effective youth science education outreach program.
How UC Delivers
This week-long long camp is held annually at UC's Elkus Ranch and provides an immersive experience focused on the science and art of range and natural resource management. Livestock and natural resources Advisors Theresa Becchetti, Julie Finzel, Rebecca Ozeran, and Devii Rao provided capacity for all facets of Range Camp planning and operations. They secured funding to integrate a teacher training component into camp and to facilitate the development of a high school range management curriculum focused on the unique characteristics of California rangelands.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and it became clear that an in-person camp was not feasible, the camp was restructured to accommodate an all virtual experience. The traditionally week-long camp was condensed into 23 brief videos and activities, each of which covered an important science concept. Topics included:
- Rangeland Ecology
- Rangeland Monitoring
- Plant Identification
- Virtual Ranch Tours
- Ranch Economics
- Climate Change
- Fire Ecology
- Careers in Range Management
A survey was distributed in 2017 to campers from 2001-2016 to assess the impact of Range Camp. The survey response rate was 18%, with 95% of respondents indicating that camp increased their understanding of natural resources and 90% of respondents reporting that camp changed their perceptions of how our personal actions affect the environment. College majors among survey respondents were heavily weighted towards science degrees. Range Camp graduates have gone on to be UCCE Advisors, work for NASA, direct youth education outreach organizations and more, demonstrating how new partnerships and contributions from UC ANR Advisors have cultivated new rangeland professionals and contributes to UC ANR's public value of developing a qualified workforce. Range Camp is about more than teaching science; it's about challenging preconceptions, fostering new friendships, and building life skills. One camper stated:
I felt so complete when the sun was disappearing behind the hills…it was as if camp made me realize that I can make a difference. Suddenly, beating global warming and climate change seemed possible…Range Camp has enlightened me. It has changed me. It has permanently made me a ‘happy camper.'
To learn more about Range Camp, visit our program website.
Homeschooling families are invited to venture out to a new learning environment at UC Elkus Ranch in Half Moon Bay. UC Elkus Ranch is an environmental education center, providing unique hands-on learning experiences for Bay Area youth. Due to COVID-19 precautions, UC Elkus Ranch has temporarily opened to the general public for private family tours only.
UC Cooperative Extension educators lead small groups on a remote-learning walk through the pastoral fields, vegetable gardens, historic barns and animal pens at UC Elkus Ranch.
“Families can feed our sheep while learning about wool processing, hear how predators and prey adapt, view our impressive animal bone collection, take selfies with our goats and miniature donkeys, and plant a seedling to take home,” said Frank McPherson, director of UC Cooperative Extension for the Bay Area.
Tours must be scheduled in advance and all statewide and San Mateo County Health Department restrictions are being enforced. Current information on San Mateo County health restrictions can be found at https://www.smchealth.org/health-officer-orders-and-statements. For information on scheduling and pricing, please visit http://elkusranch.ucanr.edu/Visit/Family_Tours.
Elkus Ranch, property of the University of California, conducts educational outdoor programs for urban, disabled and inner-city youth in environmental science, California history, animal care and agricultural programs year-round.
Located on the central California coast in Half Moon Bay, the ranch offers diverse programs including those specifically designed for students with special needs, allowing participants to learn about the inter-relationship of the environment and themselves in a rural setting. Under normal circumstances,Elkus Ranch hosts more than 9,000 youth and adults each year from all over the San Francisco Bay Area including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.
Elkus Ranch also has a conference center that can be leased separately. The 4,400 square foot educational and conference facility is available for daytime retreats, meetings and workshops year-around. Current COVID-19 restrictions may affect availability. Additional information about the ranch and conference center, can be found at http://elkusranch.ucanr.edu/Visit/Conference_Center.
For more information about Elkus Ranch, please visit http://elkusranch.ucanr.edu or contact Leslie Jensen at LKJensen@ucanr.edu or (650) 712-3151.