Last week I had the opportunity to join the MERITO program on their trip to Elkhorn Slough Reserve. The program is operated by the Monterey Bay Marine National Sanctuary and its goal is to inform underrepresented youth about the sanctuary. The purpose of the trip to the Slough was to educate the kids about what an estuary is and its connection with the ocean. The group was composed of Latinos and African American kids. It was my responsibility to take the group of about 20 students on a short nature walk through one of the trails that has shorebirds, leopard sharks, and bat rays. One of the things that I noticed right away was that some of the students did not know how to use binoculars. I wanted to give them a proper introduction to binoculars but due to time I was forced to touch on only some important rules. However, along the way I made sure that those who were struggling understood how to use them. Throughout the walk we saw Red-tailed Hawks, White American Pelicans, Great Blue Heron, Marble Godwits, Willets, Turkey Vultures, and even a deer.
One of the things that I liked the most was the reaction of some the kids after they figured out that I spoke Spanish. A few seconds later the conversation changed and they wanted to know where I was from and where I was born. I was excited to talk to them about myself in order to connect with them better. From there on some of the kids were less afraid to ask questions and they were more open to listening to me. This was my first experience leading a group of kids outdoors. This experience helped me better understand what are some of the things that work well when interacting with a large group of kids out in nature. I learned from my mistakes and will improve my next programs. I was very grateful at how well they behaved and how well they collaborated with me.
I also had the opportunity to assist Kenton Parker from Elkhorn Slough Reserve on one of his walks with an adult group from Salinas. The group was very diverse and I believe that none of them had been to the Slough before. One of the things that I was excited about doing was interacting with Spanish speaking parents who have limited English language abilities. Throughout the tour I stayed near the Spanish-speaking parents in order to translate what Kenton was mentioning. As time went by, the people surrounding me were Latino parents that were interested in hearing what I was translating. I kept translating what Kenton was mentioning and also conversing with the parents about things that I though were interesting regarding the Slough. This is good practice for the Spanish language nature programs Stephanie and I will lead at Elkhorn Slough throughout the summer. It was also very interesting to hear Kenton give a tour of Elkhorn Slough and I was very excited to hear what the parents had to say at the end of the tour. I had a few parents that came up to me before they left and thanked me for joining them and for the work that I am doing. They were very happy to see a Latino involved in something different. Experiences like that are what motivates me to keep doing what I do.