Last November during our Spring 2013 photo shoot in Los Angeles, our Spring cast members had the opportunity to complete a service project with the Student Conservation Association. The project was held at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Center in Solstice Canyon, near Malibu.
Most SCA projects have the same format – they begin with the ‘Circle Up’, a signature part of the SCA experience. Everyone huddles together in a tight circle with the SCA crew leader in the middle. The leader inspires the crew by emphasizing the impact their work will have, then gives a run down of what to expect on the project that day.
‘Circle Up’ is frequently followed by a short SCA team building session. That day in the Santa Monica Mountains, group cohesion was cemented with a game called “Bear, Salmon, Mosquito.” The crew members were split into two teams and a line was drawn on the ground. The teams had to decide whether they were going to be a bear, salmon, or mosquito… basically it was a high-energy version of rock, paper, scissors. “Bear, Salmon, Mosquito” is a great warm-up for the physical work that is associated with service projects.
Finally, before the service projects can truly begin, the crew leader has to go over safety and care tips for the tools. Everyone must be wearing proper attire to use shovels, axes, or any other tools – this includes long pants and closed-toe shoes.
For this project, our crew members planted three different native plants that had been destroyed during the 2007 wild fires. The first plant was the hummingbird sage, which smells great and attracts humming birds. The second plant was the California Sage Bush, which is also known as cowboy cologne because of its scent. Finally, wild blackberry plants were reinstated. Wild blackberries are sometimes confused with poison oak because they both have three leaves, but if it’s hairy it’s a berry!
By working to repopulate native plants hurt by the wildfires, SCA and American Eagle Outfitters helped strengthen a crucial part of the Santa Monica Mountains ecosystem. Without these plants, the insects would die that are a food source for the birds. If the birds died out, larger animals would also start to die out because the birds are their food source.
After the team planted over 75 native plants, the SCA crew leaders took everyone on a breathtaking hike up the canyon to see the Pacific Ocean from in between the mountains. It was the perfect end to an awesome service project!
Want to get involved? You can decide which National Park to help next. Vote for ‘We Donate, You Decide’ now.