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Irvine Ranch becomes outdoor classroom for Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana

Children have the rare opportunity to learn from experts about the ecosystems present within Black Star Canyon, a dynamic section of the permanently preserved Irvine Ranch.

Irvine Company, the Donald Bren Foundation, and Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) welcomed children from the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana on October 6, 2018, to experience a diverse and illustrative section of the nearly 60,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch, located just 15 minutes from downtown Santa Ana, and to learn about the native ecosystems and how they are being preserved for future generations.

“The chance to learn about and experience nature is an incredible opportunity for our kids. We hope they are inspired by what they saw and develop a lasting relationship with these landscapes,” said Robert Santana, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast.  “Our kids were amazed that such natural beauty is available within just a short drive. They are excited to return with friends and family.”

This unique outdoor classroom experience, titled “Nature in my Backyard,” was led by expert ecologists and conservationists from IRC, offering the children an opportunity to see, touch, and understand the life cycles, environment, plants and wildlife that make up this natural landmark.

The fifth- and sixth-graders from the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana arrived at the Baker Staging Area in Black Star Canyon at 9 a.m. A docent from IRC started their day by sharing the history of the Irvine Ranch and its lands and taught the children about the distinct ecosystems present.

After the orientation, the kids worked with staff members to create a “tree memory journal” as they learned about the anatomy of a tree, its environment and how its grows. Capping off their experience, an IRC ecologist led the group on a wilderness hike to teach the kids how to identify native plants and wildlife. During their hike, they spotted a red-tailed hawk flying overhead and native roadrunner scurrying through the underbrush.

“It was a pleasure to witness the youthful curiosity of the children as they learned about the climate and rainfall patterns over the decades by studying the growth rings of native sycamore trees,” said Michael O’Connell, executive director of Irvine Ranch Conservancy. “It is our hope that these kids develop an understanding and appreciation for our natural world and the unique gift we have here in Orange County in our permanently preserved wildlands.”


About Irvine Company philanthropy and the Donald Bren Foundation
Giving back to the community is core to  Irvine Company’s culture. This commitment to philanthropy is inspired directly by Chairman Donald Bren — admired as one of the world’s most generous philanthropists. For decades, Mr. Bren has been enriching communities on behalf of Irvine Company and the Donald Bren Foundation with more than $1.3 billion in donations, according to Businessweek magazine. Focusing his philanthropic contributions in three key areas — environmental stewardship, education, and research — Mr. Bren believes those pursuits have the widest-reaching potential to affect and enrich people’s lives.

About the Irvine Ranch Conservancy
Irvine Ranch Conservancy is a nonprofit, non-advocacy organization committed to the highest possible standards of long-term land stewardship.  Based in Orange County, the conservancy’s mission is to ensure the protection, restoration and enhancement of the natural resources of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks forever and to provide diverse opportunities for public participation by conducting and supporting scientific, recreational and educational initiatives and programs.

About the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast serves more than 8,500 children and teens across 65 sites in the cities of Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach and Orange. For more than 75 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast has provided mentors, intervention services and enrichment programs to Orange County youth and families. The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast is to ensure every child has mentors and champions in life.