Once Upon a Watershed

Once Upon A Watershed

Once Upon a Watershed provides hands-on watershed education, restoration, and stewardship experiences for Kindergarten, 4th , 5th, and 6th grade students in ten public schools in the Ventura River Watershed.

This program cultivates a sense of shared responsibility for our environment, instilling confidence and hope by empowering young people to make a real difference at the local watershed scale.

The kindergarten program has students act out plants and animals of their watershed. Fourth graders collect acorns and plant native oaks at Ventura Land Trust’s (VLT) Willoughby and Big Rock properties and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s (OVLC) Ojai Meadows Preserve. Fifth graders take action to combat the effects of plastic pollution in our watershed by participating in beach clean-ups while exploring the Ventura River Estuary. Sixth grade activities focus on the critically endangered Southern Steelhead Trout and the effects of the Matilija dam on beach erosion and spawning access. Students plant and mulch native plants along the riverbank at the OVLC Steelhead Preserve and the VLT Big Rock preserve, under the supervision of conservation biologists from the OVLC, VLT, and the California Conservation Corps .

Once Upon A Watershed’s free programs are supported by grants and donations in partnership with Ventura Land Trust.

Outdoor Field Program

(Middle School, High School, College, and above)

Ventura High School student testing water quality in the Ventura River

“The (land trust) field trip provided a rare opportunity for students to collect data in the field. Science content is more meaningful when it’s connected to the real world. The field trip exposed students to places in their local community they might not normally experience and helped them become aware of local environmental issues.” - Jennifer Holland, Anacapa Middle School science teacher


Ventura Land Trust staff leads environmental education field trips for local students. Since 2004, we have introduced thousands of youth to the natural beauty of the Ventura River estuary and have educated them about the importance of protecting this valuable environmental asset. By concentrating on watershed science and emphasizing hands-on learning in a beautiful outdoor setting, our goal is to educate the next generation of open space stewards and inspire them protect local fragile ecosystems. Ventura Land Trust's field trips teach students about native and invasive plant and animal species, habitat restoration, fire ecology, and the importance of open space preservation and give students the opportunity to help in restoration efforts. 

Students with Santa Barbara Tours group helping with Post-Thomas Fire restoration activities

Working with community partners, such as Santa Barbara Channel Keeper and the Ventura Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, we teach students about watersheds and water quality, how land use effects waterways, endangered species, invasive plants and animals, and habitat restoration techniques. Field trips with VLT are often provided free of cost thanks to organizations such as the Southern California Wetlands Restoration Program. Transportation funding is also occasionally available (please contact VLT staff to inquire).

Rio Mesa students testing water quality at the Big Rock Preserve


In addition to local elementary, middle and high school students, we also lead preserve tours and restoration events for youth and adult community organizations, business groups and clubs. Past visitors to our preserves include Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, SCAPE, Boys & Girls Club teens, REI, Patagonia, Agilent Technologies, Rotary Club or other community service groups.

Teachers, clubs, or community members interested in learning about the environment and/or touring VLT Nature Preserves, should email info@venturalandtrust.org, or call (805) 643-8044 for more information.

Become a Member Volunteer


get updates