Natural Perspectives: 'Rapped' up in new teaching endeavor

Vic must have thought that I didn't have enough to do, what with teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps, writing this column, and attempting to grow 350 pounds of food this year. He asked me to team-teach his bird and natural history courses with him at Saddleback College this year.

Naturally, I was flattered that he thought that I had something to contribute to his classes. But mainly I think he wanted me to ride with him so he could use the carpool lane on his commutes to South Orange County.

This was kind of a last minute idea of his. So in late December I rushed around to locate transcripts from my college days back in the Pleistocene. I had to be fingerprinted and tested for TB as well, plus go in for an interview.

At my age (69), I should be thinking about retirement, not applying for yet another part-time job. But Saddleback College hired me, and now I'm on the faculty in their emeritus program. So be it.

The emeritus program turns out to be pretty neat. It caters to senior citizens, giving them an opportunity for what is called leisurely learning by the program administrators. No tests, no credit, no pressure. Just one class a week of fun that stimulates the brain. At my age, I need brain stimulation. I think preparing for these classes will give me a big dose of that.

As I suspected, Vic doesn't really need any help with his bird class. Other than taking bird photographs on each field trip and preparing a PowerPoint presentation on what was seen for the next lecture class, I really have nothing to contribute. But that "nothing" is going to occupy a considerable amount of my time.

The real time suck is going to be his other class, natural history. There, I have a considerable amount to contribute. Vic expects me to give a good portion of the lectures, since he teaches mainly ecology.

Ecology revolves about the relationship between the biotic (plants and animals) world and the abiotic (air, rocks and water) world. I just learned that in Vic's recent lecture.

Natural history is more like nature study. It covers local geology and prehistoric life, plus plants, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and the culture of early indigenous people. I already have material on those topics that will easily convert into PowerPoint lectures.

As many of you know, I teach conservation awareness at the Orange County Conservation Corps. There, I teach young, at-risk adults about the habitats of Orange County, focusing on an environmental issue or endangered species in each habitat. I also have 30 years experience working in the field exploring and restoring local habitats. This has given me a lot of stories that I can weave into the lectures.

We delivered our first two team-taught lectures last week. I thought they went very well. To the surprise of the students, I opened my portion of each class with a little rap number. Yep, I'm a rapping grandma. Just call me "Igloo." (Get it? My name is Lou, and I'm cool.)

I got into rapping to keep the attention of my Conservation Corps students, who are mainly urban, street-culture young men. I have written a number of rap songs that teach positive values. It creates an instant connection with my students. My performance is complete with hand gestures that I picked up from watching movies like "Hustle and Flow." To tell the truth, I actually enjoy listening to rap on the radio. I prefer the Southern crunk style over the more hardcore West Coast gangsta rap.

My next lecture topic for the natural history class will be geology. I already have a rap about geology that I call "Rock Rap."

There are three basic kinds of rocks: igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary. Igneous rocks are born of fire, formed by volcanic action. Think of basalt, obsidian, pumice, and granite, and you've pretty much covered igneous rocks.

There are rocks all around us. Look out your window and take a peek at the mountains directly to the east. That twin-peaked, saddleback formation is part of the Santa Ana Mountains. Santiago Peak is on the right and Modjeska Peak is on the left. Santiago Peak is the highest point in Orange County, rising 5,689 feet above sea level.

Santiago Peak is an example of igneous rock. That formation dates back 135 million years, when the land that would become Orange County was still under water. Other volcanic activity in Orange County dates back about 14 to 16 million years ago, when our land was still under water. Orange County didn't rise up out of the ocean until about 3 to 5 million years ago.

Sedimentary rocks are formed when various sediments are compacted into rock. They can be fossilized sand dunes that were covered and converted to rock, such as can be seen in Zion National Park. Or they can be sandy sediments that have been converted to sandstone, or clay that became shale.

Limestone is a type of sedimentary rock that is composed mainly of calcium carbonate, and is generally formed by an accumulation of the shells of marine invertebrates. The limestone cliffs around Newport Bay and Limestone Canyon and Fossil Reef Park in Laguna Woods are good examples.

Metamorphic rocks can be either igneous or sedimentary rocks that have been converted by heat and pressure into other types of rock. Examples are slate, marble and gneiss, but these types of rock are not common in Orange County.

For a class text, we're using a book that just came out, "Wild and Beautiful: A Natural History of Open Spaces in Orange County," by Allan A. Schoenherr. Published by Laguna Wilderness Press, the book is intended for the general public who wants to learn more about Orange County wild areas and what is in them.

The book is filled with fabulous photography, and is available at the Sea and Sage Audubon bookstore in Irvine. I highly recommend it.

VIC LEIPZIG and LOU MURRAY are Huntington Beach residents and environmentalists. They can be reached at

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World