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Nonprofit takes LA kids on educational trips

May 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
At a time when the school district is dealing with budget and program cuts, a local nonprofit is helping to pick up some of the slack.

The Children's Nature Institute focuses on teaching kids all about the wonders of nature by letting them experience it firsthand.

A bus full of preschoolers from Blythe Elementary in Reseda made their way through Malibu Lagoon. For many, it's their first visit to the beach and first time outside their neighborhoods.

Led by Michael Griffee, a docent for the Children's Nature Institute, or CNI, the kids get an up-close look at the wonders of nature.

"They get off the bus, and I say, 'We're all scientists today.' So, we're asking questions, and we get to be like, 'Hey, I'm doing exactly what a scientist does,'" Griffee said.

Griffee is a volunteer member of a surprisingly small staff at CNI. They take LAUSD kids in underserved communities on similar field trips twice a week, reaching out to some 10,000 students under the age of 8.

The nonprofit organization has been around for 25 years and operates with a modest budget of $500,000 and just two full-time employees.

"It's a hidden treasure," said Lucy Papu, a preschool teacher at Blythe Elementary. "It's not just a field trip. They give us a wonder mobile, they give us lesson plans, they come to our classroom."

The field trips are a lot of fun for the kids and the volunteers.

"They keep supporting us. Without the support, the children will be missing a lot of really good experiences," Papu said.

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