IRVINE, Calif. (April 23, 2018) – Fourth- and fifth-graders from the Boys and Girls Club of Irvine enjoyed a daylong outing amid Orange County’s preserved wildlands on an Earth Day event designed to bring them closer to nature. The rare, hands-on lesson in the importance of preserving and protecting natural open space was sponsored by Irvine Company and the Donald Bren Foundation and hosted by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.
Themed “Nature in My Backyard,” the excursion sought to inspire a love of nature.
“As a young boy growing up in Southern California, I learned to appreciate nature on land very similar to the preserved open spaces on The Irvine Ranch,” said Donald Bren, Chairman of Irvine Company. “They not only inspire, they create a sense of freedom. My hope is that this special outing instills a similar sense of freedom and wonder in the youth of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Irvine and Santa Ana.”
Taking time to head outdoors and learn about nature is no longer as automatic as it used to be. Studies show most children spend most of their time indoors.
Organizers hope the Earth Day outing will be the first of many nature explorations for the children. For their part, the children appreciated the opportunity to put down their screens and take in the scene.
The youths’ outdoor adventure began at the Conservancy’s Native Seed Farm – a 14-acre parcel in the foothills north of Irvine where Conservancy officials and community volunteers work side by side harvesting native seeds used to revegetate natural open spaces on The Irvine Ranch. Conservancy officials gave a brief lesson in the different plant habitats throughout the 57,000 preserved acres on the ranch and the wide variety of wildlife that depends on them for survival.
From there, a Boys and Girls Club bus shuttled the children up the Hicks Haul Road to Loma Ridge, a scenic iconic natural formation that offers panoramic views of Orange County. As the boys and girls took in the views, Conservancy officials gave a brief history of the area’s geography and helped them locate the general area of their neighborhoods below. They then drove to nearby Baker Canyon where they participated in a nature scavenger hunt and shared what they had learned.
“Anytime you take kids on a special outing like this, they just light up,” said Robert Santana, chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Orange Coast, which serves 8,000 youths in the cities of Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Orange.
“We look for teachable moments, and Earth Day presented such an opportunity. We want the kids to understand their environmental footprint on the world, and the beautiful open spaces available on The Irvine Ranch offer a wonderful chance to help them understand the importance of taking care of the planet.”
Santana said that, while learning about plant and animal habitats and ecosystems was a focus of the day, the most important thing about events like this “is what the kids learn about themselves, and the memories they create. The big deliverable is the experience they have.”
Michael O’Connell, executive director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, said, “One of our biggest challenges, in our digital age, is helping create opportunities for kids to connect with nature, getting them excited about it and understanding the importance of its long-term care.”
O’Connell said events like the one sponsored by Irvine Company and the Donald Bren Foundation can be life-changing. “You can ask anyone who works in land management for a living — including myself — and they’ll point to specific experiences, ‘aha’ moments, that sparked their love of the land and their desire to care for it. I have no doubt that at least a few of the children who were on the trip got really, really excited — and that is critical to the long-term care of these remarkable lands.”
Under Bren’s direction over the past several decades, Irvine Company has guided the permanent preservation of more than 60 percent of the historic 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch. In fact, this year marks the 30-year anniversary of Irvine Company’s historic Open Space Agreement with the City of Irvine and the 10-year anniversary of The Irvine Ranch being designated a California Natural Landmark. In 2006, the land was named a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Irvine Ranch is the only area in the nation to have both the national and state Natural Landmark designations.
About Irvine Company philanthropy and the Donald Bren Foundation
Giving back to the community is at the core of 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 non-profit, non-advocacy organization committed to the highest possible standards of long-term land stewardship. Based in Orange County, Calif., 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.