Weekly roundup: Students learn environmental lessons through excursions, schools recognized for civic education, and more

Dozens of fifth-graders have learned about nature and the environment by sleeping, eating and learning at a four-day, three-night Newport Bay science camp as part of a program called Fostering interest in Nature.

The Daily Pilot’s article this week described how the FiiN program, in its freshman year, focuses on bringing students from Title I schools to Newport Beach’s Back Bay, where they can learn about the estuary and have “an outdoor experience they will never forget.” Over 10 weeks, nine groups of fifth-graders have participated.

Title I schools have large concentrations of students from low-income households and receive supplemental federal funds to help meet educational goals.

News printFiiN focuses primarily on educating students about watersheds, marine ecology and the history of the bay, but students also can go on hikes and a boat tour in addition to kayaking and exploring tide pools, according to the Daily Pilot. They camp outdoors at Camp James and are fed by Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, both of which partner with FiiN.

The program is currently on its fourth group of students. It expects to have hosted about 350 students by the end of its first year.

City staff said the program is open to any Title I school in Orange County, but students attending this year are from the Santa Ana and Newport-Mesa unified school districts.

“When I grew up, it was part of the curriculum that you can go out and you do a nature camp. But it was all done by the individual,” Heather Cieslak, director of operations for the Newport Bay Conservancy, told the Daily Pilot.

“My family had to fundraise or pay for it, and here, it’s an opportunity for these students if maybe their parents can’t afford it or are disconnected, that they can then come for this four-day, three-night program and get to experience it.”

FiiN is funded by the city of Newport Beach and the Lido House hotel as part of negotiations for the latter’s lease of city land after the California Coastal Commission said the city needed to find lower-cost visitor accommodations before it would approve the project.

Here are some other news articles from across the region for the week ending March 22.

  • Confident that a new Democratic supermajority in the California Legislature will back them, two state senators are proposing to ask voters in 2020 to make it easier for school district voters to pass parcel taxes.

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