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The EGBAR Foundation, in conjunction with Simple Green, the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR), the non-profit Friends of the SBNWR organization, and McGaugh Elementary School, are proud to educate young people about the value of critical ecosystems through the "Natives in the Classroom" project which launched on Earth Day 2014.

With the help of their enthusiastic teachers, 4th grade students raise approximately 350 native plants annually to be planted at the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge. Shade covers for the germination trays were built by Simple Green employees, and planting supplies were provided by the EGBAR Foundation.

Students are assigned a plant species to learn about, educate their peers on, and be responsible for throughout the growth cycle.

"It's a project that had been on my mind for a while but just didn't have the time or resources to implement until [The EGBAR Foundation and Simple Green] became involved and took the reins," said Kirk Gilligan, refuge manager at SBNWR.

Lisa Cox of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also explained how the addition of native plants will benefit the refuge. Some of the many advantages include providing a high-quality habitat for feeding and nesting birds, restoring the composition and health of the soil, encouraging interbreeding and increasing genetic resilience, and attracting the native wildlife that is cherished by southern Californians.

"My students are taking this project very seriously. They see themselves as scientists and want to make a difference," remarked McGaugh Elementary Teacher Vanessa Uy. "One student said it best, 'I'm learning and helping at the same time and I didn't know I could do that.'" Through participation in "Natives in the Classroom," Uy hopes that her students gain an understanding of the required science standards beyond what is found in their textbooks.

There is a strong interconnected volunteer effort within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), consisting of 561 refuges in the United States. Many of the refuges have special Friends groups, such as the non-profit Friends of the SBNWR, of which anyone can be a part. The NWRS is dependent on volunteers for habitat restoration. To get involved with a refuge like SBNWR, contact the refuge of interest.