Exploring the reserve with a Docent-Naturalist.

To connect, educate, and engage the community to act to ensure the health and wellbeing of their watershed


(1.5 hours)

Any of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve trails are suited for these hikes, with exceptions noted. We recommend San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center and Loop Trail for grades K-2. Grades K-5 Programs are aligned with Science and Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools.

Grades K-2
Habitat Hunt

Hone your observation skills by searching for animal clues and their habitat requirements. Students will use their senses of sight, smell, touch, and sound to explore the different plants and animals of the lagoon and the habitats on which they depend. In order to survive, all living things need a place to live—a habitat, or home—that provides air, food, water, and shelter. Some animals are able to meet their needs throughout many lagoon habitats, while others rely solely on a specific lagoon habitat. A special emphasis is placed on the fiddler crab and its life cycle, and how it relies on both the lagoon and the ocean to survive. This hike is only offered at San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center. 

  • Download Teachers' Guide
    Living Lagoon: Exploring Habitats (PDF)
    This guide will assist you in meeting Science Content and Common Core Standards for California Public Schools.
Grades 3-5
Adapt to Your Habitat
Uncover the physical and behavioral adaptations that allow many different organisms to live side by side, whether in the salt marsh, the freshwater riparian woodland, or the dry coastal sage scrub. We will also discuss how changes in the environment might affect an organism’s chance of survival.
  • Download Teachers' Guide
    Adaptations: Secrets to Survival (PDF)   
    This guide will assist you in meeting Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, which focus on plant and animal adaptations in physical structure or behavior, and may improve an organism's chance for survival.
Eat or Be Eaten
Explore how organisms depend on one another and their environment for survival. Examine the different components of an ecosystem, both the living and non-living, and determine which plants and animals can survive in a particular environment. The terms producer, consumer, and decomposer will be introduced, with examples of how they fit into the food chain and web. The recommended trailhead for this hike is at Rios Avenue

  • Download Teachers’ Guide
    What’s for Lunch? Food Chains and Food Webs (PDF)
    This guide will assist you in meeting Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, which focus on organisms’ need for energy and matter to live and grow, and their dependence on one another and the environment for survival.

Learn about the distribution of Earth's fresh water and salt water, and how valuable fresh water is to all communities. You'll discover the origin of fresh water and where it flows. Did you know San Elijo Lagoon helps clean water that runs through it, and provides many other beneficial functions for wildlife habitats?

  • Download Teachers' Guide
    Water and Wetlands: Our Precious Resources (PDF)
    This guide will assist you in meeting Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, which focus on how freshwater is limited, and the origin of water used in local communities. The guide also addresses the important role wetlands play in the Escondido watershed, and encourages students to protect and conserve water resources.
Living off the Land – the Kumeyaay
Discover how indigenous peoples, primarily the Kumeyaay, thrived from natural resources found right here in this lagoon. Living in harmony with the environment, the Kumeyaay relied on many plants and animals for food, shelter, and medicines. Recommended trailheads for this hike are at Rios Avenue and Santa Carina
  • Download Teachers’ Guide
    The Kumeyaay People of San Elijo Lagoon (PDF)
    This guide will assist you in meeting History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, which focus on local American Indian nations, how the physical environment affected their lives, and their use of natural resources.
Grades 3-12
Wetland Wonders
Get to know the many important functions of a wetland and its exceptional variety of plants and animals that rely on this ecosystem for survival. Coastal wetlands are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Experience the lagoon’s sights, sounds, and tranquility while learning about the reserve’s sensitive habitats. 

  • Download Teachers’ Guide 
    Rhythms of Wetlands (PDF) 
    This guide will assist you in meeting Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (grades 3-5), which focus on how the physical environment influences the diversity of plants and animals in an ecosystem. 
Grades 9-12
Birding 101
Scan the landscape for a variety of resident and migratory birds that depend on this lagoon throughout the year. Learn about the important role estuaries play in providing bird habitats. Through bird observations, we will also discuss the importance of biodiversity within an ecosystem. We'll explore the impacts of urban population and climate change that challenge species survival and stability in the reserve. Binoculars will be provided.  



All reservations must be made a minimum of one month prior to anticipated field trip.

  • Walks are Wednesday - Friday
  • Programs run approximately 1.5 hours and are offered between 9 am to Noon
  • Maximum Class Size: 50 students
  • Chaperone Ratio: 1:10

After reviewing trail descriptions for your class age range, and helpful hints in Teachers' Place, please log on to the Online Registration Calendar to complete your registration: Calendar

School Programs


Tara Fuad, Education Director

E: tara [at] sanelijo [dot] org
P: (760) 436-3944 x 701

$50 per group of 25 students

These programs can be offered at no charge to any school that inquires. Donations strengthen docent training and development of environmental education curriculum. Your email confirmation will include your donation. Thank you.

Please make check payable to:
San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
Memo: Docent Walk

Send to:
San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
Docent Walk
PO Box 230634
Encinitas, CA  92023-0634 

  Photo: J. Free