Tulare County school gives thousands of students opportunity to enjoy the outdoors

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many families do not have the means to take their kids on a trip to the foothills or the mountains.

That's why the Tulare County Office of Education, a Children First partner, gives thousands of students an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors at SCICON, the Outdoor School of Science and Conservation.

Listen closely, and the hills near Springville in Tulare County fill with the sounds of nature taking its course, and children discovering the wonders of the outdoors.

RELATED: ABC30 half-hour special focuses on exploring the outdoors

Sixth graders from different schools in Tulare County are spending a week at SCICON, the Outdoor School of Science and Conservation.

Abigail Avila, 11, says the school, "Makes it fun to learn. We go look for animals and frogs, and we go we build things, and it's really fun."

Ismael Sanchez, 12, is getting a better appreciation for his surroundings, "The salamanders, the beautiful plants. Sometimes I might be on my Xbox or playing video games, and I don't notice the wildlife, so like right now I'm just going to go outside now."

Students also get eye-opening lessons on protecting the environment.

"We need to clean up the air because we're the United States," said Abigail. "It has the worst air because we're surrounded by mountains, and it's getting trapped there."

"In paper, we waste like 1.5 billion in paper each year, and that's wasting trees," said Ismael.

Dianne Shew is the administrator of SCICON, which is considered the premiere outdoor school in California.

"Our motto is SCICON is a week that lasts a lifetime."

With views of the Sequoia National Forest, more than 20,000 students a year visit SCICON. Operated by our Children First partner, Tulare County Office of Education, kids get hands-on lessons you won't find in a book.

"If it is birding, you're looking at birds," said Shew. "If it is the tree nursery, you have a shovel, or your planting the tree. If it is aquatics, you're in the creek catching different little salamanders and stuff."

Shew says even the toughest kids let their guards down in this setting.

"(The kids) come up here all tough, with their hoods up, and they are not going to do anything like this, but by Tuesday night they are laughing at our stupid jokes. By Wednesday we have got total buy in and they are happy and they are nice to everybody."

SCICON has a natural history museum, and a raptor center. Here, you forget the cell phone and care about creatures.

SCICON intern Chris Silveira says, "I just love telling them little facts, or something cool about a certain animal, and they just... It's like when that light bulb clicks, it's like 'Oh my gosh I understand what he's saying now.'"

At the end of the week, kids make bracelets, with each bead representing a new friend they made. They collect autographs and lasting memories of the magic that happens when you spend a little time outdoors.

ABC30 thanks its partners below for putting Children First in the Central Valley.
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