I’m not going to lie… my second AmeriCorps term with ESLT has been challenging! I joke about how, at the start of my second term, we promised it would be different form my first year. What we didn’t know was just how different it would be.

I started the year with an absolutely incredible experience at the Land Trust Alliance’s Rally, a national land conservation conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I returned to the Eastside full of energy and enthusiasm. I had grand plans for expanding and improving upon traditional ESLT programs. My energy was further fueled by attending a K-12 Leadership Summit for land trusts in early March. One short week later, the world turned upside down and the COVID-19 pandemic threw all those plans out the window. At the time, like the rest of the world, I was frustrated and upset and didn’t fully understand what was going on.

Marie hosted education programs and community events via Zoom throughout 2020.

I know I wasn’t alone. Everyone has struggled in some way this year and that’s okay. After some initial frustration, I started to realize that there were opportunities to pivot some of our programming. I started brainstorming…

Hey, the Pollinator Garden Workshop ESLT hosts every year to help people learn about creating pollinator-friendly gardens! Let’s put that online.

Sure, for out Taking Root program, let’s try teaching twenty third graders about bird calls on Zoom with an interactive bird call game! What could possibly go wrong? Sorry to all the parents working form home for encouraging your children to make bird calls as loud as possible. Maybe the calming nature scavenger hunts I put together will make up for it?

Well, GardenFest won’t really work online, but you know what? Maybe ESLT could start the book club we’ve always talked about. Or the BioBlitz we wanted to do this year.

Marie helped gardeners remotely this year, through the Eastside Pollinator Garden Project. Thanks to her hard work, ESLT has certified ten new official pollinator gardens! Pictured: Pam’s newly-certified garden. Photo by Marie Ring.

There were bumps in the road and many challenges, but we were able to transition a lot of our programming to a virtual format. Although it wasn’t the same as in-person programming, we were still able to connect with people of all ages form all across California.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as ESLT’s Education Coordinator and AmeriCorps Member for the past two years. I’ve been able to meet so many incredible people even in 2020, from certifying ten more gardens this year as a part of the Eastside Pollinator Garden Project to having over one hundred people join the live sessions of our Virtual Victory Garden Workshop Series.

The Eastern Sierra’s amazing community and the SNAP program have helped me grow a lot in the past two years, both personally and professionally. As I wrap up the last few days of my term, I’m both sad to leave this community and also looking forward to the future. In October, I will start a new position as the Director of Membership and Programming at Kennebec Land Trust in Maine. I’m thrilled to be able to take everything I’ve learned over the past two years and continue developing my career in land conservation. However, I have no doubt that once it’s safe to do so, I’ll be back in the incredible place that is the Eastern Sierra, at least to visit.


Want to learn more about ESLT’s youth education programs and why they’re such an important part of Eastern Sierra conservation? Learn about our Community Connections Program at the link below.

Community Connections


Author Marie Ring served as ESLT’s Education Coordinator and AmeriCorps Member here for two year-long terms, from 2018 through 2020. We’ll miss you, Marie!