Leo Club plans an environmental lesson
Members share appreciation for nature through the Earth Stewards Program
Every Friday, Leo Club members gather next to the gardener’s shed at McClellan Ranch Preserve. On this particular Friday afternoon, Nov. 2, members — shaded by trees, the ground blanketed with fall leaves — spread out on the wooden benches and conversed among each other before volunteering for the Earth Stewards Program.
The Earth Stewards Program, created by environmental and educational organization Grassroots Ecology, allows Leo Club members to learn more about the environment and help out at McClellan Ranch Preserve. This opportunity to educate himself and contribute to the environment is what inspired president and senior Rahul Sawhney to participate in the event.
“One of the main things, especially in Cupertino, is as we get more and more technologically advanced, we lose out [on] a lot of nature,” Sawhney said. “McClellan Ranch Preserve, it’s the only such thing in Cupertino, and one thing we really want to do is — while technology advances — want to make sure our environment is still in top quality as well. [Earth Stewards is] is a small thing we do, but it’s something to keep the city clean.”
Sawhney has participated in Earth Stewards previously and has been involved since the program’s inception two years ago. As Earth Stewards is a weekly program, Sawhney says that the same five or six members typically participate. This time, however, there were more participants than usual, so the group started off with a brief icebreaker, allowing new and returning participants to get to know each other. They formed a circle, with each person introducing themselves and sharing what they dressed up as for Halloween.
Though the students’ choice of costume was diverse, the volunteers had one thing in common: their appreciation for nature. Club member and senior Sankeerth Arumilly, who has attended every week for the past two years, expresses that the program helped him understand the importance of nature.
“What did I learn from this is that in reality, there is a lot more in nature than that meets the eye and there’s a lot more in depth and reality,” Arumilly said. “In reality, we don’t respect that as much as we should. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about nature in general, how appreciative I was of it and really how me as an individual — things I do can actually impact it and make it better.”
Sophomore Inara Rahman echoes a similar sentiment, believing that volunteering with Leo Club at McClellan Ranch Preserve is not only an opporunity to interact with nature but also an unique way of volunteering.
“I thought that joining some sort of volunteering event like this would be much different than the traditional volunteering opportunities offered,” Rahman said. “I thought it’d be nice to try something new. I like the experience of going out to nature and just doing activities that help the environment and studying it.”
During their weekly volunteering at the preserve, members have participated in activities ranging from wildlife tracking to observing fish dissections. One event in particular, where members monitored Stevens Creek, was what inspired Sawhney to keep coming back to Earth Stewards.
“We were down in the creek and we were just watching,” Sawhney said. “We were monitoring the water level looking for invasive species and just one thing that struck me was there are a lot of invasive species here. If I keep coming back, I’ll keep making small changes that will help keep the area native.”
Through these ongoing activities, Leo Club members have learned more about the environment, so this week, they were tasked with developing an educational lesson to teach the Young Naturalists, a middle school version of Earth Stewards. The members split into three groups to brainstorm potential lesson plans, then came back together as a large group to further develop their ideas.
Since the Young Naturalists had previously expressed interest in learning about Stevens Creek, the Earth Stewards came up with activities that centered around the creek, such as testing the temperature, quality and pH of the water. Other lessons involved observing benthic macroinvertebrates from the creek, identifying poisonous or invasive species, looking at the food webs within the creek and learning about the watershed.
Though the activities that the Earth Stewards participate in vary every week, one aspect stays constant: the members.
“It’s nice because it’s just like a separate community,” Sawhney said. “There are five or six of us that generally show up, not a lot of people, but really, it’s just a small group of us that just work together and [it] helps us get closer.”