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

Training classes are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays September 9th through October 14th.

No prior experience is necessary — only a desire to help children develop a love of the natural world and an enthusiasm for preserving it, the groups said.

Since 1990, the Audubon Society has offered tours of the Ballona Wetlands for children in grades three through six. More than 40,000 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 marine invertebrates that inhabit the natural environment. The program has had various sponsors over the years.

Tours are held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from October through May, with two classes arriving at 10 a.m. 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 observe microorganisms and telescopes and binoculars to watch birds and their behavior.

The participants will also walk through the wetlands with naturalists leading the discussion on wetlands and the interdependence of all 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 visit lasts 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.

There is a small refundable materials fee.

Information, Cindy Hardin at (310) 301-0050, or Barbara Courtois at (310) 379-4669.