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A Great Volunteer Opportunity: Lead Nature Hikes with Inner City Kids

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It's 11:30 a.m. near the supposed center of Los Angeles and students from Huntington Park's San Antonio Elementary School are on a field trip experiencing something new. In this city, the literal center is not downtown or a highway, it's Franklin Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains, which is considered the country's largest urban national park by the National Park Service, one of the government entities that manages the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area.

Tens of thousands of students from in and around the Los Angeles region visit Franklin Canyon each year. 15,000 of them--mostly at the elementary level--come courtesy of the non profit Children's Nature Institute.

"It's something that's really amazing for the kids because they never ever get out here because they don't have things like this near where they live," explained Melanie Bowerman, a Nature Walk Leader and Environmental Educator with CNI. "Sometimes it's the first time that any of these kids have come to a place like this, have walked on the dirt or have seen the animals."