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We are also available for backcountry hikes and beach walks. Backcountry hikes are generally along a three mile loop trail which lasts two hours and incorporate the principals of ecology. We discuss the flora, fauna, and other natural history of Crystal Cove and the surrounding area. You may also request a hike on a particular subject pertaining to the park including:

*The History of Crystal Cove - the Juanenos, the rancho period, Irvine Company, to the state government
*Coastal Sage Scrub, a Disappearing Habitat - habitat destruction, endangered species, conservation, fire ecology
*Ecology of Crystal Cove - Native American uses of plants, animal tracks and scat, pollution, and conservation.

Beach Walks are also along a three mile loop trail, both on the beach and up above on our paved trail, and last about two hours. This walk also stresses ecological principals such as the interconnection of plants and animals, the importance of protecting habitat, and animal migration. We talk about birds, gray whales, and tidepool critters. We also walk past the historic district where quaint beach cottages remind us of how the California coastline used to look before the development boom.

Unhuggables: The mere mention of skunks, sharks, spiders, and rattlesnakes arouse fear, revulsion or both in many park visitors. Some of these animals may be considered pesky, but are a valuable part of our natural world. This programs helps to eliminate the negative stereotypes and instead focuses on the special defense mechanisms and adaptations that these animals use to survive.

Interpretive Programs offered at Crystal Cove State Park

Cetaceans: Gray whales make the longest migration of any known animal. Each year, they travel from their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chuchki Seas, to their winter breeding grounds in Baja California. On their 12,000 mile journey they pass by Crystal Cove State Park allowing us the opportunity to observe them by sea or sometimes from the land. Students will learn about the biology of the whales, migration, and about the whaling days which nearly caused the whales to become extinct. This multi-media program uses slides, video, audio, and hands on demonstrations.

Pinnipeds: Is it a seal or a sea lion? How can you tell the difference? See one of your students transformed into both of these animals before your very eyes. Students learn about marine animal adaptations through a fun dress-up demonstration. We'll also discuss feeding strategies, the devastating effects of marine pollution, historical seal hunting, and, marine mammal protection laws that were created to protect these animals once on the verge of extinction.

Critters of the Park: Children love this program in which taxidermed animals, pelts, puppets, and bones are used to discuss food chains, biodiversity, defense mechanisms, and conservation. All of the animals are residents of our local area and allowing kids to touch a mountain lion pelt, and feel the bones of an owl gives them a much greater appreciation for their neighbors.

Tidepools: One of the greatest educational tools that we have at Crystal Cove State Park is the Pacific Ocean. Two times each day the ocean produces a high tide and two times each day a low tide. During low tide, tidepool critters are revealed in their most vulnerable, basic form. Gentle exploration of the tidepools allows children to learn about the magnificent invertebrates that rely on the rise and fall of the tides to provide them with food, shelter, and space. For classrooms that are unable to take a field trip to the tidepools, we offer in-class programs as well. For older students we show slides and discuss the feeding and defense strategies of these creatures through Tidepool Jeopardy. For younger children we have story time, using a treasure chest full of animal puppets to relate tidepool creatures and their adaptations to the children's own world.

Birds: Birds possess multiple adaptations that aid in the survival of each species. Taken from Ranger Rick's Nature Scope, we implement a fun, interactive game to explain bird beaks and feet adaptations. Why does a double-crested cormorant spread its wings while on a rock? How much water can a pelican hold in its pouch? We talk about survival and defense mechanisms by displaying bones, feathers, and taxidermed birds. Even better, if a field trip to the State Park can be arranged, we take the children to the beach to investigate shore birds first hand.

Native Americans (Juanenos): Bring your students to Crystal Cove State Park for a backcountry hike and guided discussion of native plant uses. Touch, smell, and even taste some of the plants used by the Juanenos for food, medicine, clothing, tools, and even recreational items. For in-class presentation, children partake in a game by matching items Juanenos used to items we use today for the same purpose. This interactive method allows us to explain the Juaneno lifestyle, cultural diversity and conservation.

Native American Storytelling and Games: The Keepers of the Earth, a series of books by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac, are filled with Native American folklore and legend. There is a story for almost any area of interest or study. This program focuses on how the Native Americans respected all life forms and were good stewards of the earth. We will teach the kids about cultural diversity through storytelling, games, and role-playing.

Endangered Species: In this program we discuss the major threats facing animals and plants due to human activities. We begin by defining threatened, endangered, and extinct and proceed to a student participation game that further demonstrates the seriousness of extinction. Our slide show examines the consequences of habitat destruction, pollution, and poaching. We take it from a global perspective on down to our own backyard. Finally, we offer suggestions for how students can get involved in protection and conservation issues.

Marine Debris and Recycling: The beach is not a giant ashtray! Nor is the ocean a waste receptacle for unwanted trash! This program focuses on the devastation of the marine environment due to pollution most notably plastics. Animals such as seals, turtles, and seabirds are the major victims as they get entangled in or digest plastics. This program is very interactive as we brainstorm with the kids about solutions to this serious problem. We show slides of marine debris and discuss the devastating effects, play a decomposition game, and focus on recycling and other creative conservation measures.

Ocean Conservation: One of the main goals of California State Parks is to protect and preserve the natural resources. Unfortunately, it's a difficult job as some park visitor's litter, collect, deface, and poach the flora and fauna of the park. This program offers students the opportunity to make a difference either by a beach clean up, trail maintenance, or another beautification project. Your students will learn the importance of protecting open spaces and wildlife while providing a valuable service.

Coastal Wetlands: Wetlands serve a critical purpose in our environment. They provide food, shelter, and nurseries to plants and animals. They act as breeding habitats, resting spots, and wintering stopovers for millions of migratory birds. They purify the environment and help control floods. Despite all of these vital functions, California has lost 95% of its wetlands. This program will introduce the importance of wetlands by using metaphors and a matching exercise. We'll create a decomposition chart and together devise solutions to help protect these important habitats.

Spiders, Bats, and Butterflies: These organisms never seem to receive enough credit for their important roles in pollination and insect control. Students will discover how beneficial these animals are to our environment through the use of taxidermed specimens, puppets, stories, and other interpretive props. If desired, to offer first-hand exploration, we can also take a short walk in search of insects and butterflies.

Historic District Walk: Tours of the colorful Historic District, offer students an opportunity to view the 46 beachside cottages listed on the National Historic Registry. Built in the 1920's and 1930's, the cottages represent the unique character of a beachfront community. Students will learn about the areas history including the film making era and the Japanese truck farmers, the present plans for the cottages and what the future holds.

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