Where The Wild Things Are
“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
Winter Bonnin says she has lived by this Baba Dioum motto her entire career as an interpretive naturalist at Crystal Cove State Park. “It’s important for people to feel a connection with their environment so that they care about protecting it,” she explains, also noting the advantage of introducing this education and fostering a love of nature at any early age.
Bonnin has the opportunity to imprint young minds through school field trips (she sees about 5,000 students a year and hopes to see that number rise in our beach communities) to the park as well as through various state park programs, including Camp Coastal Wild and a Junior Ranger course offered this summer. “The best way to reach kids is through their love of animals,” Bonnin says. Kids get to meet a few friends of the park — among them a couple desert tortoises, a possum, a skunk and a snake — and learn about their habitats. “Then we can approach the larger concept of environment — litter, pollution, oil and chemical spills, the effects of such chemicals at DDT,” Bonnin says. “When kids understand the impact these things have on the animals they care about, they start thinking critically. They’ll go out into the world and see a crab and think, ‘I don’t want that crab to have a line around it’ or when a sea lion washes up on shore, they’ll feel an emotional connection to it.
Just because these kids live at the beach doesn’t mean they understand how to be stewards of the earth, Bonnin says. “We need to teach them this — that this beautiful coastline and space isn’t only their backyard, it’s home to these animals.” If kids know that when they pull a sea star from the tide pool rocks, they’re practically pulling its legs off, they won’t do it,” she says. Or if they understand how trash they litter on their schoolyard can be picked up by birds or carried to the ocean where it harms marine life, they’ll act responsibly.
“There is nothing more special to me than sharing my passion for nature with these kids and this community,” Bonnin says. You spark an interest and hope it takes off — and that it translates as they get older.”
Camp Coastal Wild
Offered for the first time at Crystal Cove State Park, this five-day camp allows kids (ages 7–10) to experience the local backcountry and coastal areas of the park. Mornings focus on nature activities like hiking, birding and tide pool exploration with park naturalists, while afternoons offer adventures like kayaking, boogie boarding and volleyball. Begins June 22, 9 a.m.-2 p.m; $160/child; to register, contact email@example.com.
Starting June 29 and offered every Monday through July, this program educates kids (7–12) about the local ecology and how to protect it. A day-use parking fee ($15) gets you in — “come for the program, stay for the day!” Bonnin says — and youngsters earn a badge at the end of their “training.” For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tide Pool Rules and Beach “Manners”
• Never remove animals, shells or rocks from the tide pools or beach
• Never pick up animals — observe them where they are.
• Walk gently, taking care not to step on plants or animals.
• Never turn over rocks.
To view more on Park Friendly Behavior click here.