Earth Discovery Institute at Crestridge Ecological Preserve
The Crestridge Ecological Preserve is a 2600 acre parcel of land to the south of Interstate 8, in the town of Crest, near El Cajon, California. The land is largely coastal sage scrub habitat and home to more than fifty sensitive and protected species of plants and animals. The land has been rescued from development and preserved through the tremendous efforts of the citizen group The Endangered Habitats League, the Back County Land Trust, the California Department of Fish & Game, and others. The California Department of Fish & Game, who now owns the land, has agreed to lease a part of it to the Back County Land Trust for the creation of the Earth Discovery Institute.
The Earth Discovery Institute is an educational program and facility being developed at the Crestridge Ecological Preserve to give students from nearby Granite Hills High School (and eventually other schools) a place to learn about the natural world outside of a classroom. Creative Writing, Art, Social Studies and Biology students will have an opportunity to use Crestridge and its plant and wildlife as their subject for creative, historic, geographic, and scientific studies. With funding from the Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) grant, the High School is creating the EAST lab, a state of the art facility that will be housed at Granite Hills High. Each semester, twenty-eight students will have an opportunity to work in the field at Crestridge, bring back data to the lab, and work on creative problem solving techniques and develop transferable technical skills that will serve them in further studies, work experience and life. The project- based curriculum will allow students to design their own project which can range from literature, art, history, architecture to permaculture and community gardening.
Hubbell and Hubbell Architects have been brought into this partnership to design and build the two structures that will be a part of the Earth Discovery Institute. The first structure, the Bridge to Nature, will be a gateway to the land, the bridge between the human world and the natural world. The second building is the Field Station. This building will incorporate sustainable design principles and it will be a place for the administrative and educational aspects of the Institute.
The Urban Corp of San Diego will be involved in green construction of the buildings and habitat restoration on the Crestridge site. The Urban Corp team will be taught to identify plant and animal species, trained in green building construction, taught conservation designs and technologies that are applicable to their homes and communities, and will prepare an oral history and pre-history of the site. They will also assist with surveying and mapping, and will work with the general contractor on construction.
The Earth Discovery Institute project is a collaboration between many diverse groups and individuals including:
- The California Department of Fish & Game
- Back County Land Trust
- The Urban Corp of San Diego
- Granite Hills High School
- Hubbell & Hubbell Architects
- Project Coordinator, Michael Beck
Other groups and individuals also involved with the development of the Earth Discovery Institute include:
- The Wildlife Conservation Board
- The County of San Diego
- The Conservation Biological Institute
- County Supervisor, Dianne Jacobs
- Ecological Life Systems
- The Nature Conservancy
- The California Wildlife Foundation
- The California Department of Forestry
- The Endangered Habitat League
- Archeologist, Susan Hector
- Kumeyaay, Larry Banegas