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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, students in the local area visited The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo in person to learn about nature and science.

The health crisis has put a stop to that for now, though kids are still getting educational lessons with the South Orange County preserve.

The Reserve has instituted live virtual field trips, which students can take whether they’re attending class on campus or learning from home. The program started in November and currently has 70 schools involved, with about 30 students on average per trip.

“Everyone is able to participate with the virtual experience,” said Bonnie McQuiston, Education Coordinator for The Reserve. “It gives them a chance to see the natural beauty of The Reserve.”

Bonnie McQuiston, Education Coordinator for The Reserve, said their virtual field trips give students a chance to safely continue learning about science and nature. Photo: Courtesy of The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo.

Students are able to ask questions and give feedback during the virtual trips as they learn about geology, animal adaptations, Native American life, and other subjects. Field guides also teach students about trail activities and show them equipment used at The Reserve.

“They can watch how erosion happens,” McQuiston said.

The field trips give students a chance to learn about and see things they normally wouldn’t be able to in their classrooms, including live animals. Activities are given for students to do before and after the trips.

Rocio Sandoval, a second-grade teacher from San Juan Elementary School who participated in the program, said students are engaged during the experience. Her students get to experience the valleys in the nearby area that they don’t get to personally witness while in the classroom or at home.

“They were making the connections to what we were learning on campus,” Sandoval said. “They were all participating.”

Another advantage of the virtual trips is students from outside South Orange County—including in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area—also get to experience The Reserve, McQuiston said.

“It’s been neat to not only serve our community, but students from all over that wouldn’t normally be able to come,” McQuiston said.

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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