Schoolyard Stewards

In fifth grade, students will learn about human impacts on the natural world and ways individuals and communities can work toward restoring and protecting natural resources and ecosystems. Students will study plants and their relationship with humans through firsthand experience and projects. This action based approach to sharing the world of nature will enhance a students’ skill in objective observation. Hands-on activities and lessons will support the idea that plants get what they need for successful growth from clean air and water. Students will learn in more detail about how humans have changed their environment, what those changes have brought, and compare multiple solutions to local environmental problems. 

NGSS Supported: 5-ESS2-2, 5-ESS3-1, 5-LS1-1, 5-LS2-1

In Ancestral Skills classes, students will learn about the Tongva (Gabrielino), Acjachemen (Juaneño), and Payómkawichum (Luiseño) people, the original inhabitants of Orange County and surrounding areas, their historical relationship with native plants and animals, and what we can learn from them today.

HSS Supported: 5.1, 5.1.1, 5.1.2

Topics and activities to choose from:

Watershed Conservation

Everyone lives in a watershed. The water in your backyard or school drains over or under the ground and off of the property. Where does it go? Where does it come from? Students will get to know how their local watershed and actions at home are connected to life downstream. Activities may include calculating water harvesting potential, investigating how to slow, spread, and sink water into the landscape, or setting up a water catchment system at your school. 

Habitat Restoration

How can you help restore and support biodiversity on or around your school campus? Learn about your community’s native species, habitats, and ecosystems. Design and create a natural space on your school grounds with native plantings and invasive plant removal. 


What we eat matters, not just for our own health, but also for the environment. Conventional, large scale monocrop farming practices and global food transportation contribute to deforestation, pollution and climate change. Students will learn how even small changes in what we buy and eat are solutions to the problem and can create robust local food systems, reduce pollution and decrease food waste. This lesson will include preparing and tasting organic, locally grown, seasonal produce.

Acorns (Ancestral Skills)

Acorns are an important part of our history and have been a food source for thousands of years all over the world. Why don’t most people eat them today? Students will learn how to process locally gathered acorns for food by cracking, shelling and grinding them with a mortar and pestle, and compare modern techniques to traditional methods of local indigenous tribes. At the end of this hands-on workshop, students will have the opportunity to taste bread made out of acorns. 

Plant Fiber (Ancestral Skills)

Making cordage (rope) from plant fibers is an inextricable part of historical tool making and a foundational ancestral living skill. Cordage can be used for the string on hunting bows or on bow drills for making fire, the lashing to bind poles together for shelter, the netting used to catch fish or make bags, the string on a trap, fine jewelry string, rope for building bridges, binding rafts and much more. Students will learn how to process plant fiber, get to know California native, chaparral yucca, and take home their finished yucca rope. 

Before people made cups from materials like plastic, glass, or metal, they used natural items like gourds, shells, or animal skins to hold liquids. Students will carve their own small gourd to take home and use as a natural cup. 

Plant Medicine (Ancestral Skills)

Plants have been used for medicine by our earliest human ancestors for hundreds of thousands of years, and many people still use them medicinally today. Students will learn about the healing properties of plants, get to know a few well known medicinal plants, and make a healing salve to take home.