Education

We teach over 1,200 students every year throughout Sonoma Valley. Our programs teach children and adults to care for our natural heritage through experiences that foster curiosity and reverence, and inspire action and caretaking. By educating our community we are helping to cultivate earth stewards — both young and old — who will be equipped to deal with the many environmental challenges we face in the 21st century.

K-6 Watershed Education Program

Since 2002, Sonoma Ecology Center has been the only organization in the Valley providing in-class environmental education programs specific to the Sonoma Creek Watershed. These programs are for Sonoma Valley youth and offered at no cost to schools. Reaching more than 1,200 students every school year, we provide in-class lessons and bring students to various natural sites and open spaces throughout the watershed.

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EnviroLeaders

EnviroLeaders is a unique program designed to foster diverse, environmentally literate community leaders from among Sonoma Valley’s youth. Any Valley resident between the ages of 14 and 18 can gain valuable work experience through the EnviroLeaders program, with the skills and tools needed to tackle the critical challenges they will face as tomorrow’s leaders.

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California Naturalist Program

Sonoma Ecology Center is teaming up with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources to offer the California Naturalist Program, an accredited eight-week course held at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. The eight-week course results in real college credits, and it turns nature lovers into certified graduates of the UC California Naturalist Program, making them valuable authorities on California’s plants and animals, geology and soils, water, climate and biodiversity.

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Senderos Naturales

Senderos Naturales es un programa bilingüe que explora lugares naturales en español y inglés. Hacemos caminatas, remando, jardinería, camping, y proyectos artísticas para toda la familia en tierras conservadas y parques.

Senderos Naturales is a bilingual program that explores natural places in Spanish and English. We do hikes, paddling, gardening, camping, and artistic projects for the whole family on conservation land and in parks.

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NeWTs (Neighborhood Water Teams)

An exciting new project for the Education Program is NeWTs (Neighborhood Water Teams). This is a unique community-based program for saving water and building stronger neighborhoods.

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Summer Science Camp

Science Camp provides children with the opportunity to learn about science and connect with nature through adventures, explorations, and hands-on activities. This summer we will be offering six sessions of camp, based at either Sugarloaf Ridge State Park or Sonoma Garden Park.

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Other Community Education

Sonoma Ecology Center staff and outside experts lead numerous workshops, outings and other field experiences throughout the year that inform and inspire, offering participants opportunities to learn firsthand about the natural resources in our area. Our workshops are held at Sonoma Garden Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park or any of several other partner land projects in Sonoma Valley, such as Van Hoosear and Montini open space preserves. To learn more about upcoming workshops, outings and other events, see our events calendar.

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Education Staff

Tony Passantino

Tony Passantino

Education Program Manager

B.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies, UCLA

Tony worked on watershed conservation and education as an intern with Tahoe-Baikal Institute. Prior to joining Sonoma Ecology Center, Tony completed an AmeriCorps term in Lake Tahoe, working on building sustainable communities and developing plans for homeowners to prevent soil erosion and runoff from entering the watershed. He teaches in Sonoma Valley classrooms and at various field sites, and oversees the EnviroLeaders and California Naturalist programs.

Julia Megna

Julia Megna

Education Project Manager

B.A. in Humanities and Theater Arts, UCSC / Teaching Credential, Chapman University

Julia taught in Sonoma County elementary schools for 32 years, 21 as a classroom teacher. As a teacher leader, she specialized in the sciences, curriculum development, outdoor education, fundraising, and facilitating the creation of outdoor learning environments. Through her own efforts as well as Point Blue’s STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed), Julia has engaged hundreds of students in restoration projects and conservation science.

Jonny Ehlers

Jonny Ehlers

Educator/Naturalist

B.A. in Environmental Education and Wildland Management, UCSC

Jonny is a fourth-generation educator who began working with youth right out of high school in an after-school program in Sacramento. He later became an educator in West Sonoma County at a residential camp working with diverse populations, and founded The Mycelium Project, an organization dedicated to helping kids and adults through hikes, and nature-based activities.

Partners

  • Sonoma Valley Unified School District
  • Kenwood School District
  • Hanna Boys Center
  • Valley of the Moon Teen Center
  • Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma Valley
  • Master Gardeners of Sonoma County

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