SANTA BARBARA COUNTY - Outdoor Science School is common for 5th and 6th graders across the State, but one program on the Central Coast focuses on more than just Science.
It's a place just off of Highway 154, and Mother Earth is queen.
It's called The Outdoor Camp at Rancho Alegre, and it's a place where kids come here to learn about the environment and about themselves. It dates back about 50 years.
Ron Walsh, the Executive Director of the Outdoor School, says, "We are now seeing, in some cases, grandchildren of people who were here, back, 50 years ago. Their grand kids are now coming to the Outdoor School. We have some 2nd generation students now, that's pretty normal. So it's pretty wonderful, it's a great resource for us."
More than 160 kids from schools in Los Olivos, Solvang, and Ventura arrived on this particular Tuesday morning, for a four-day camp that focuses on conservation.
The Camp is tucked away with the backdrop of Cachuma Lake; lessons of science, geology, astronomy, and plant life await the students.
Immediately, the kids are taken to the cafeteria, where lesson number one is instilled at lunch.
"Naturalists", or camp leaders, encourage the students to put on their plate only what they can eat. What they don't finish, gets separated either into a compost bin, or an "ort" bin, and is weighed for the camp's big attraction: the daily "Ort Report."
Walsh explains: "Ort is actually a word. It's the food that's leftover on your plate that you intended to eat but didn't."
Different schools attend the camp each week, and it's a big contest among the students to have the least waste from week to week. This morning, the kids just have two pounds all together of leftover food from this lunch meal.
Then a couple of volunteers are chosen to take the leftovers, and go outside with a Naturalist to learn about composting. It's a very prestigious opportunity among the nearly 200 kids.
In addition to the food, very little else goes to waste. Water is conserved as a "finite resource" Walsh explains. The water comes from the Camp's own treatment plant, and shower water is limited, for example.
Lukewarm water comes from the shower head, and three minutes is all the kids get. It's just one of the many ways the school teaches kids to integrate conservation into their daily lives.
Outdoor School Education Director Justin Canty, explains: "The objective is to nourish a connection with nature, to have kids nourish a connection with nature so that when we're talking about things like conservation, or saving the environment, they have something to attach that affection to."
Camp leaders stress interconnectivity, that everything is related.
Canty elaborates: "We want to teach a lot about the concepts that they learn in the classroom, the science concepts, but we take it in the outdoors and we apply it in a hands-on sort of way."
But more than that, camp leaders want the kids to learn about themselves, hike mountains they never thought they could conquer, do things they never imagined they could do.
Canty says, "We want the kids to think about respecting themselves, as well as respecting nature."