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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Featured photo: An outdoor science school with the Emerald Cove Outdoor Science (ECOS) Institute gives San Juan Elementary School students a chance to learn about the natural world outside the classroom. Photo: Courtesy of San Juan Elementary

Usually, San Juan Elementary School teachers and staff hold fundraisers to ensure students can attend an outdoor science school (OSS) with the Emerald Cove Outdoor Science (ECOS) Institute in San Bernardino County—an opportunity where students get to have unique hands-on lessons in ecology and other topics.

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on their usual fundraising activities, school members involved with the program are asking the community to pitch in with donations—particularly businesses and charitable organizations.

The OSS program will be held March 15-17, and allows 5th grade students to fully experience the outdoors and natural world in ways they normally can’t get in the classroom or San Juan Capistrano. The fundraising goal this time around is for tens of thousands of dollars.

Donations can be made to the San Juan Children’s Education Foundation online through GoFundMe or by mail at 32158 Camino Capistrano, Ste. A-122, San Juan Capistrano, CA, 92675.

“OSS was one of my favorite activities we did in fifth grade. Learning out in the nature was amazing and super fun,” said student Kenzie Martin. “I’m so glad I got the chance to go to fifth grade science camp!”

In another testimonial, student Anthony Pule said OSS was his first time away from home without his parents. He got to see wild animals and built a shelter.

Beneficial activities cited by teachers include hiking, meeting new friends from other schools, or getting to look at stars through a telescope. Students may not usually get a chance to participate in those activities otherwise, according to faculty members.

“What we love about the program is the opportunities and the experiences our students get when they go to outdoor science school,” said 5th grade teacher Monica Diaz, who has attended prior trips. “For our community and a lot of our students, many of them don’t even have the opportunity to go away and have these experiences outside of their own backyard.”

Businesses that reportedly have sponsored OSS so far include Feed Barn, Chick’s Plumbing, and Capistrano VW. OSS will follow pandemic health guidelines.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at

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