The Friends of Ballona Wetlands, along with Santa Monica Bay and Los Angeles Audubon chapters, are offering a six-week training program for volunteer naturalists and educational outreach volunteers interested in leading school tours of the Ballona Wetlands.

Training classes will be from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, beginning September 11th and continuing Tuesday mornings through October 16th. Volunteers need no prior experience.

Since 1990, the Audubon Society has offered tours of the Ballona Wetlands for children in grades four through six. More than 50,000 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 and microorganisms that inhabit this beautiful natural environment, according to a spokesman.

The children will be divided into groups of 15 and a volunteer naturalist accompanies each group. During the two-hour walk, students will have an opportunity to use microscopes to observe microorganisms and telescopes and binoculars to watch birds and their behavior. They will also walk through the wetlands with naturalists, who will lead the discussion of wetlands and the interdependence of living things.

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. The visits last approximately an hour and a half.

Training sessions cover wetland ecology, birds, native plants and animals, the food chain and interpretive techniques.

Each participant will receive a comprehensive training manual.

The training program is free to Audubon members and $20 for non-members, but the fee includes membership.

There is also a refundable materials fee.

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

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