An insight to Nature

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The Cornucopia Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Malibu, has begun work on a Living Park and Nature Academy near Malibu High School. The project, which could be completed in as early as six months, will allow local teachers to bring their students to the site for environmental instruction.

By Kevin Connelly / Special to the Malibu Times

In efforts to beautify Malibu High School and provide a place for both children and adults to learn about local plants and wildlife, The Cornucopia Foundation in Malibu has begun work on a Living Park and Nature Academy project adjacent to the school’s tennis courts.

The project, which began early this year and could be complete within six months pending sufficient funding, will include a range of local plants and wildlife from vegetable and herb gardens to owl habitats and worm farms. There are also plans to build an outdoor classroom on the site where local teachers would be encouraged to bring their classes for environmental instruction.

Although the site will be open to adults and children alike, Cornucopia Vice President Remy O’Neil said the project would greatly benefit a young student’s development.

“Environmental-based education, studies have shown, dramatically improves test scores, grade point averages, and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking and decision making,” O’Neil said. “Inventiveness and imagination of [many] creative people is rooted in early experiences in nature.”

O’Neil, a Malibu resident, said students who become involved with this “edible schoolyard” would be immersed in the entire process from planting fruits and vegetables to selling them at the Malibu Farmers Market. Once the project is complete, Cornucopia hopes to have an onsite expert to assist the students.

“Many kids are exposed to the traditional schools and the traditional careers like [medicine] or [law],” O’Neil said. “[This project] will give them a non-classical education and expose them to different types of careers. It is a completely different type of education.”

Even if the project does not inspire them to pursue the environmental field, O’Neil said it would at least give students insight into the wildlife that surrounds them.

“The average eighth grader is better able to identify cartoon characters than native species such as beetles and oak trees in their own community.”

One local boy who has already devoted much of his time to the project is Malibu resident Logan Shoop. For his Eagle project with the Boy Scouts of America, Shoop and other local Boy Scouts have donated dozens of labor hours to Cornucopia. Thus far, they have dug up fennel root systems and dispersed mulch throughout the property.

“[This] project could help further people’s understanding of their environment,” Shoop said. “We don’t use our environment to the fullest.”

Shoop, a 15-year-old freshman at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, plans on devoting 25 more hours to Cornucopia.

Those interested in helping Shoop, who will be at the site with 10 to 15 Boy Scouts on Oct. 23 and 30, can contact Cornucopia founder and President Debra Bianco. Also, Cornucopia welcomes community service from Malibu High School students, who are required to participate in at least 20 hours of community service per year to graduate.

Founded in 1998 by Bianco, Cornucopia is a nonprofit organization based in Malibu devoted to “nurturing the Earth and human spirit.” The organization was given a Dolphin Award by The Malibu Times in 2001. It is also the official sponsor of the Malibu Farmers Market.

Cornucopia is currently in negotiations with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District for a five-year lease on Living Park and Nature Academy property. More information on donating time or money to Cornucopia can be obtained at the Web site, www.malibucopia.com or by calling 310.457.4537.