Malibu Lagoon Together program educates and promotes stewardship at state park

A young participant in the Malibu Lagoon Together program inspects an example of a fish species at Malibu Lagoon State Park. Photo Courtesy of Resource Conservation District

Families are encouraged to get out to the lagoon and learn about the ecosystem at Malibu Lagoon State Park with the Malibu Lagoon Together educational program.

The program is hosted by the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and is led by RCD educators who will teach visitors about native birds, fish, and plants. 

The program combines an outdoor science-based educational experience with a family fun day at the beach. The events are free and only require registration. 

The day at the beach is split into two portions, beginning with an educational portion led by the RCD educators, followed by an open beach portion where the RCD provides beach toys and games for families to use while they enjoy an afternoon on the beach. RCD educators also spend time at the beach following the educational portion to answer any questions that visitors may have while exploring the beach.

The educational portion of the event takes families on hikes around the lagoon where they will be taught about the fish, bird and plant species that make up the lagoon’s ecosystem. Families will learn about fish species like the striped mullet and the endangered steelhead trout, and lagoon native bird species like the snowy egret and great white heron. Hikes will feature plant species such as willow, spiny rush and mugwort.

Next, visitors will be taught to test the water quality of the lagoon, including salinity, PH levels, and temperature to determine how healthy the lagoon currently is.

The educational portion concludes with a beach scavenger hunt where families are encouraged to explore the beach for wildlife that may be hidden along the shore. Unlike other public beaches, the lagoon’s beach is ungroomed, allowing for families to discover different kinds of wildlife. 

Jelly Kahler, education and communication specialist for the Resource Conservation District, said the program is meant to bring students and their families to the lagoon where they can connect, learn and appreciate this ecosystem.

She explained that the program was designed to increase access to the California coast and serve families from historically underserved communities. 

“It’s specifically meant to break down the barriers that a lot of communities face when going to the coast,” Kahler said. “Whether those are financial barriers, physical barriers, or emotional barriers such as not feeling safe in those environments, that’s where this [program] was born from.” 

She said she hopes families will learn about and appreciate the lagoon and eventually become environmental stewards. She believes that by providing an educational portion as well as an open beach portion, families have the knowledge and freedom to gain a new appreciation for the beach and coastal ecosystems.

“We want you to enjoy exploring this ecosystem in whatever way feels comfortable, celebratory and right to you,” Kahler said. “We’re there to support you if you want us to.” 

She explained that although educational programs hosted by the RCD are usually designed for students aged 8 to 10, the educators at events like Malibu Lagoon Together are well educated on the lagoon and are able to adapt their program to visitors of all ages.

She said family members of all ages could expect to have an engaging experience on the beach.

The RCD educators are made up of different generations of naturalists who are well educated in their local ecosystems and have a passion for the environment.

“We have some people who are retired from their traditional fields and come out to lead educational programs because they are inspired by the environment but we also have young professionals trying to get their feet wet in environmental education,” Kahler said. “We have a little bit of everything, and they have really fantastic knowledge about our local ecosystems.”

Although the program is designed to serve communities who do not get much experience on the coast, Kahler said Malibu residents should feel encouraged to attend the program because there is so much to learn about the lagoon. She believes experiencing and exploring the lagoon in a different way may inspire residents to want to conserve and protect these local ecosystems.

“Connecting to a space in a totally different way and coming at it from a new perspective can really inspire unexpected stewardship feelings,” Kahler said. “It would be enriching to have the local community come out to connect with that space in a new way.” 

She explained that stewardship for ecosystems like these are increasingly important. 

According to Kahler, where California used to have 10 wetlands, currently there is only one, the state having lost 90 percent of these ecosystems. 

She hopes continued educational programs will build on the appreciation for the lagoon that will help protect and restore it.

“Of the few wetlands we have left, we’re making sure we’re protecting them, preserving them, and enhancing them and telling people how truly special and exciting these ecosystems are,” Kahler said.

The educational program began the first week of June and ran through Sept. 3. 

Students and families interested in attending the Malibu Lagoon Together program or any other programs visit