Donna Klarin, a former Desert Sands School teacher, who also founded the Children’s Discovery Museum in Rancho Mirage, originally started the NSC in 1995. In 2002, Klarin retired and Joanna Stark became Director of the NSC and has remained ever since. When asked about the purpose of the NSC, Stark said, “The purpose of the Natural Science Collaborative is two-fold. First, is to give natural science educators an opportunity to share information and coordinate activities with colleagues to become more effective service providers within the community. The second purpose is outreach: implementing programs, for our community and its visitors, to increase awareness, appreciation and conservation of our beautiful desert, its history and culture and the unique habitat we share with indigenous flora and fauna.”
After becoming a nonprofit, one of the first steps that NSC took back in 1995 was to publish a Resource Guide and make it available to all valley teachers and educators. But, in 2004 in an effort to reduce paper and related expenses, the NSC decided to go paperless and make the guide online only. However, due to the overwhelming number of requests to reconsider that move, the NSC will once again offer a printed hard-copy guide, as well as a digital magazine online, beginning this fall. According to NSC Member Michelle Hedgecock, of Caliso Learning, the guide will serve as a, “fantastic “go-to” for educators, families, and visitors to find local businesses, government, and non-profits who offer public programs and experiences with nature and our local, natural resources.”
While “The Desert Naturally” continues to be an excellent guide for the people of the CV, and certainly help to make the NSC better known, the real work of the NSC remains natural science education. As NSC member Tracy Albrecht, specialist with the SRSJNM/BLM in Palm Springs says, the NSC is important because the “…children in the Coachella Valley know more about the place they live.” Albrecht also referred to another one of the NCS’s primary annual activities. Albrecht says, “At the Teachers' Fair natural science educators are available to meet face to face with school teachers. I have attended many of them; each event has provided a special, and spontaneous camaraderie with dedicated teachers I have known for decades.” Albrecht continued with, “The Teachers’ Fairs are successful for environmental educators to better understand teacher's needs as well as teachers becoming aware of nature-related services to enhance learning in their classroom. The fairs also promote a better understanding of natural science, offering hands-on learning opportunities on-site, allowing teachers to take new ideas straight to the classroom.”
This year’s “Educator’
Joanna Stark, a retired teacher herself, is always on the lookout for new and creative ways that the NSC can outreach to other educators and the community. Besides the resource guide and the Educator’s Fair, the group intends to offer a film festival in the spring, a hiking program for high school students with the local BLM, and a number of other programs and activities. Stark also takes part in a variety of venues including her popular “Mother Nature” presentation which is a particularly fun and entertaining way to learn about natural science.
Current members of the NSC of the Desert include The Living Desert, Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, Animal Samaritans, Cabot’s Desert Museum, Cree, Mission Springs Water District, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, the Wild Bird Center, Joshua Tree National Park, San Jacinto NHA and many, many others and more are always welcome. When possible, members meet monthly to exchange information and discuss ways to support, implement and promote natural science education in our schools and community.
With the Educator’s Fall Festival planned for November 10th, the NSC intends to provide every attendee with a printed The Desert Naturally Resource Guide. That means that anyone who wants to advertise or be listed in the guide must provide information and copy to the NSC immediately. The printed and online version of the guide will contain three separate sections 1) Natural Science Members & Resources 2) Eco/Geo Tourism; and 3) Green & Sustainable Living. In addition to distributing the guide to all interested educators within local school districts, it will also be made available to local Visitor’s Centers. Advertising rates are extremely reasonable and monies raised by this nonprofit for the guide are used directly for its publication. Anyone interested in advertising should email: NSCDR@aol.com as soon as possible.
The NSC has been a valuable part of the CV for many years and will continue to be so. As Hedgecock of Caliso Learning says, “There is such a variety of opportunities, programs and experiences to be found within each organization that makes up our membership—hidden treasures and resources abound for all ages, most of them for free.” While budget cuts have forced local teachers to cut back on many learning opportunities for valley students, it is good to know that the NSC of the Desert is working hard to make sure that the children know where they come from and how the natural environment works. Best of all, as Stark says, “We have learned from the BP Gulf disaster that there is a desperate need for more cooperative communication between environmentalists, scientists, engineers and businesses to be prepared for the ever increasing and complex issues that involve managing our planet wisely”.
by Kathy Gottberg --CoachellaValleyGreen.com
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Coachella Valley Green (CVG) is an information gateway to the people, businesses and places that are green and sustainable within the Coachella Valley of CA and beyond--including Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta and Indio.