The Audubon Society is offering a six-week training program for volunteer naturalists and educational outreach volunteers interested in leading school tours of the Ballona Wetlands.

Training classes are scheduled to begin Tuesday, September 15th from 9 a.m. to noon and continue on Tuesday mornings through October 20th. No prior experience is necessary, only a desire to help children develop a love of the natural world and an enthusiasm for preserving it, society officials said.

Since 1990, the Audubon Society has offered tours of the Ballona Wetlands for children in grades four through six. More than 35,000 children have participated in the program, which offers an opportunity for students to see the last major salt marsh in Los Angeles County and to learn about the native plants, insects birds and microorganisms that inhabit the wetlands, society officials said.

Tours are held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from October to May. The children are divided into groups of 15 and a volunteer naturalist accompanies each group. During their two-hour walk, students have an opportunity to use microscopes to view aquatic invertebrates, and telescopes and binoculars to watch birds and their behavior.

The students also walk through the wetlands with naturalists leading a discussion. Volunteer naturalists are asked to lead at least two tours per month between October and May.

Educational outreach volunteers visit local classrooms prior to the field trips.

Naturalist training sessions cover wetland ecology, birds, native plants, the food chain and interpretive techniques. Each participant will receive a comprehensive training manual.

Training is free, but there is a small refundable deposit for materials.

Information, Cindy Hardin at (310) 301-0050.

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