Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center gives back by gardening

This post was written by Melissa Boyd, 2014 & 2015 Outdoor Education Instructor.

At the Mono Lake Committee Outdoor Education Center we host groups from Los Angeles (and occasionally other cities) for five days at a time and teach them about water conservation, wildlife, and history of the Mono Basin. Not only do we teach them about this stunning place, but we also give them a chance to “give back to nature.”

Students from LA WYLD with a bountiful garlic harvest in the Lee Vining community garden. Photo courtesy of Ilene Mandelbaum.

In other words, groups that we host give back to nature by doing a service project in the area, such as picking up garbage at the June Lake beach or at Silver Lake Campground. This experience puts into perspective for the participants how much we humans really do continuously take from the environment, and how we can give back at least some of what we take.

The OEC recently hosted a group of Los Angeles students affiliated with a community organization called LA WYLD. The group consisted of ten rambunctious sixth, seventh, and eighth graders and four adult group leaders.  These students had the chance to give back to nature by lending a hand in the Lee Vining community garden, which is currently producing a large amount of flavorful vegetables. After the students assisted in turning the compost, pulling invasive plants, and harvesting garlic in the garden they were lucky enough to take back some ingredients for their upcoming meal, such as garlic and fresh herbs.

The students also learned about the importance of sustainable farming and some of its techniques from Ilene Mandelbaum, a seasoned and knowledgeable gardener (and former Mono Lake Committee staff member), who is in charge of the Lee Vining plot.  The students had a great time working in the garden, tasting the fresh greens, and gaining knowledge from Ilene. Thank you to LA WYLD for all the help! And thanks, Ilene, for all of your knowledge and letting us get our hands dirty!