The SLEWS Program is celebrating 15 years! We started in 2001 with four high school classes in Yolo and Sacramento counties, each participating in a habitat restoration project on a farm or ranch. Since then, the
has engaged 248 classes from 52 different high schools in habitat restoration with countless community partner organizations. We've done this in 14 California counties. Building on these partnerships, the SLEWS Program is Changing Hearts, Minds and Landscapes.
Changing landscapes is easiest to quantify. SLEWS Program students have planted 68,000 native trees, shrubs and forbs; and more than 300,000 native grasses on farms, ranches and open spaces. They've transformed bare ditches into thriving riparian corridors and unproductive farm edges into wildlife buffers for birds, insects and mammals. These projects are pulling carbon from the air and returning it to the soil. They filter water and keep soil in place. On a watershed scale they are re-integrating a network of wild spaces that provide ecosystem services on the landscape that grows our food, filters our water and cleans our air.
Changing minds happens as students explore science concepts with their hands and feet as well as their minds. The SLEWS Program builds a bridge between urban and rural, by involving urban students in rural habitat projects where they find that they are connected through the water they drink and the food they eat. Students build environmental literacy through participation and exploration. Importantly, SLEWS Program students work alongside natural resource professionals from agencies, non-profits and universities. This personal connection to the diversity of careers in conservation, opens their minds to opportunities they never knew existed. From there we connect students with internships and jobs in growing STEM fields (Science Technology Engineering and Math).
Changing hearts is the hardest to measure, but easiest to see when you come to a SLEWS field day. SLEWS Program students develop a long-term, personal connection to the land. When they plant an acorn, they know that oak tree could be there for their great-grandchildren to enjoy. You can hear the influence of this experience in the following short video of student reflections.
Thank you for being a part of 15 years of Changing Hearts, Minds and Landscapes. We hope you will join us for our anniversary celebration in the Spring of 2017. Stay tuned for more details to come and ways to support our next 15 years.
SLEWS Program Director