Alcoa Foundation Funds Service Learning Projects

September 29, 2010

Sequoia Riverlands Trust (SRT) recently received a $22,500 grant from the Alcoa Foundation to expand its conservation-based service learning program.  The grant will be used to engage at least 120 youth from Tulare County middle schools and high schools in volunteer projects that allow them to connect coursework and field work to accomplish meaningful conservation projects.

Service learning projects are a recent addition to SRT’s environmental education program, which serves more than 1,800 youth and community members each year through classroom field trips, public guided hikes and nature programs, and other volunteer opportunities. In 2009, SRT saw an opportunity to offer local youth in middle and high school a deeper, more meaningful connection to the land. With Alcoa Foundation support, SRT planned and implemented six service learning projects in which 91 youth practiced teamwork and problem-solving skills and obtained first-hand experiences with restoration, scientific monitoring and natural resource stewardship.  With continued funding from the Alcoa Foundation, SRT will expand its service learning program to offer at least eight service leaning projects in 2010.

“Service learning projects are a great way to get kids excited about conservation. Kids work in small groups to accomplish important work that restores native habitat, monitors water quality, inventories natural resources or enhances visitor experience to our nature preserves,” said Laura Childers, Environmental Education Director. “We’re proud to have Alcoa and Kawneer as sponsors of this valuable work that benefits our entire community,” continued Childers.

Tulare County is home to some of the most spectacular biodiversity and in-tact natural landscapes in the world, but is plagued with an assortment of environmental, health and socio-economic challenges that will only worsen without the public’s interest in conservation and sustainability.  The goal of SRT’s service learning program is to help train a core group of natural leaders who will take pride in leading others to respect and steward the great open spaces and biodiversity of our local environment.

In addition to training natural leaders, studies show that community-based service learning projects provide a number of benefits to youth, including:

  • Increased sense of self-efficacy with the knowledge that they can impact real social challenges, problems and needs;
  • Higher academic achievement and interest in furthering their education;
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills, ability to work in teams, and planning abilities; and
  • Enhanced civic engagement attitudes, skills and behaviors.

With support from foundations like Alcoa, SRT hopes to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders by providing youth with service learning opportunities that will empower them to take further action in their communities.

More information about SRT’s Environmental Education program—including how to sign up for a service learning project, field trip information, monthly walks, family-oriented events and news updates—can be found at

About the Alcoa Foundation:

The Alcoa Foundation works alongside Alcoa and the communities in which they operate to partner on issues and projects that address priority local challenges and contribute to the sustainability of each community where their business has a presence. Kawneer, located in Visalia, is a local Alcoa business. It is a leading manufacturer of architectural aluminum systems and products for the commercial construction industry.


In Memory of Deborah (Debbie) Lynn Bratt

September 25, 2010

Adoring wife, loving daughter and sister, overachieving employee, and outstanding poker player

12/14/60 – 9/21/10

Debbie Bratt was a force of nature – infectiously optimistic, enthusiastic, generous, caring, open and hardworking.

Debbie’s life ended unexpectedly on Tuesday, September 21. This loss has shaken the foundation of her family, loved ones, coworkers and friends.

Debbie and her husband, John Bratt, were ecstatically intertwined by a love that perfectly balanced devotion, independence, humor, respect, playfulness and responsibility. They met in a virtual poker room – she, in Ohio and he, in California – where John always sought her out because he liked her style. After several weeks at the PokerStars tables, John realized that “Darvay” was a woman, and the two immediately began their offline relationship. Soon after their first face-to-face, they made a gamble on love and, in 2005, Debbie moved to Visalia, CA to be with John. Less than two years later, they were married in Laughlin, NV.

In addition to John, Debbie is survived by her son, John L. Bratt, Jr., daughter-in-law, Cindy Bratt and granddaughter, Nicole Bratt; her father, Milton Arvay, and his companion, Rena Eagles, of Venice, FL; her sister, Linda Jaqua, and brother-in-law, John Jaqua, of Apex, NC; and her grandmother Mary Flemming of Miamisburg, OH. Debbie has a large extended family who will also miss her dearly.

Debbie loved the outdoors. She and her husband set up a seasonal camp outside Shaver every fall where they enjoyed hunting quail, deer and bear. She was an avid huntress who equally enjoyed the stake-out, the chase, and the glory of a post-hunt case of beer by the campfire with her beloved husband and her devoted dog, Obi Wan.

Filling a room with laughter was just one of her many skills. Debbie had an extraordinary ability to turn negative situations into positive ones. She also had a gift for instantaneously divining the best solution to just about any problem or conflict that arose. It’s a good thing she was right most of the time, because it was pretty hard to be on the winning side of a debate with Debbie. She took on the weight of the world and smiled all the while, saying, “Give me more. I have broad shoulders, I can handle it.”

Debbie’s approach to life was refreshing, inspiring and intoxicating (in more ways than one!) Her presence on this planet truly inspired a positive spin. In her honor, those who were fortunate to have known her must accept the responsibility to help fill the void of optimism left in this world with her departure. Debbie, you will be missed by all those you touched.

As a tribute to her generous spirit, the famous climbing sycamore tree at Kaweah Oaks Preserve will bear a plaque with her name on it. The majestic tree’s invitingly outstretched limbs will forever symbolize her embracement of life, beauty and love.

A private celebration of life will be held at the Kaweah Oaks Preserve on Saturday, October 2 at 2:00pm.

In lieu of flowers please make a donation to Sequoia Riverlands Trust by calling 559-738-0211, ext. 108, or donate directly online, in Debbie’s honor, at

Expanding Opportunities for Nature Learning!

September 15, 2010

Looking for birds on a KOP field trip

It’s a new school year and Sequoia Riverlands Trust is offering many new and exciting opportunities to engage the students of Tulare County in nature education.

Whether you’re a teacher, parent, grandparent or student mentor, check out our website for a treasure trove of environmental science lesson plans for students K-6. The lesson plans are organized by grade and offer four days of activities with four different themes – plants, birds, mammals and recycling. All lesson plans meet state standards and teach students about the wonders of nature.

Fall is a wonderful time of year to take students to Kaweah Oaks Preserve for a field trip. Please encourage your child’s teacher to sign up for a field trip with us this year. It’s a fun and educational way to teach our youth valuable lessons about respecting nature.  This year, students will get to harvest the falling acorns and learn how to plant their own trees.

SRT is also expanding its “Natural Leaders” program, which engages middle school and high school students in conservation-based service learning projects.  Our goal is to get 150 student volunteers involved in important land stewardship projects on SRT’s  nature preserves like planting trees, restoring wetlands and cataloging our wildlife. Service learning projects equip students with practical, hands-on skills in natural resource management and instill an ethic of community volunteerism and civic engagement.

For more information about how to sign up for a field trip or service learning project, please contact Laura Childers (559) 738-0211 x103 or

Special thanks to the generous corporations who help fund these Environmental Education opportunities  – Sempra Energy Foundation, Alcoa Foundation, Southern California Edison and REI.

“Artists of the Great Western Divide”

September 10, 2010

“Artists of the Great Western Divide” (2010) is a 30-minute documentary that was produced, directed and written by Reedley College professors and students. The film was inspired by the Kaweah Land & Arts Festival (November 2009) and highlights three of the Festival’s participating artists and their creative response to the Kaweah River watershed.

Paul Buxman is a native of the San Joaquin Valley and has dedicated himself full-time to painting and farming since 1980. He studied plein air painting in Illinois. His son developed leukemia which sent Buxman on an environmental quest to clean up the San Joaquin Valley’s water, soil, and air quality. He pioneered clean farming techniques which led to many sustainable practices used today. His artwork hangs in our nation’s capitol as “a reminder to our leaders of what we must preserve.”

Matthew Rangel is a printmaker whose featured work was inspired by a pilgrimage he made from the valley floor to the highest reaches of the Great Western Divide of the Sierra Nevada. His print series, A Transect – Due East, is the result of this journey. During his travels, Rangel became acquainted with many knowledgeable and unique individuals throughout the Kaweah River Watershed that influenced his artwork and experience with the land.

John Spivey is a poet, writer, furniture designer and avid photographer born in Exeter, CA. His family were early pioneers in the San Joaquin Valley. Spivey’s work includes the book, The Great Western Divide: A History with Crow, Coyote, Chaos and God, and digital photographs that document the color-saturated beauty of the Sierra Nevada.

Director: Diran Lyons
Producer: Janice Ledgerwood
Writer: Janice Ledgerwood and Diran Lyons
Paul Buxman, John Dofflemyer, Matthew Rangel, John Spivey, Niki Woodard

You can purchase a copy of the film at: