Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ritz-Carlton Ambassadors of the Environment Creatures of the Night Inspires Tweens & Teens

3rd in a Multi-Post Series

What a whirlwind and fun mini vacation to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California it has been.  
In less than 24 hours, my kids and I not only played tennis, swam in the pool, lolled in the jacuzzi, built sandcastles on the beach, and worked out in the most picturesque gym with direct ocean views, we also witnessed the most exquisite sunset and sunrise ever.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Sunset
Photo by Janis Brett Elspas, MommyBlogExpert


There is so much more to tell about all this.  That will have to wait for future posts, though,  because this story focuses on the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel's Creatures of the Night event. This was presented via the seaside luxury five star hotel's Jean-Michel Cousteau's  Ambassadors of the Environment program during that same visit.

Kids Explore What's Inside Owl Pellets
Photo  Above by Ambassadors of the Environment Staff

Creatures of the Night, themed to tie in with Halloween, was an exclusive offering at the Dana Point location.  This customized learning program was made available to 8-16 year-olds in association with Ritz-Carlton's Ambassadors of the Environment, a partnership between the hotel and Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures SocietyTo say that this alliance is simply another green endeavor does not come anywhere near to doing it justice.   After we experienced the first ever Ambassadors holiday-centered program held, we realized that this was really so much more. 

Mini MommyBlogExpert Giggles at the Jelly Belly Taste Test
Photo Above by Janis Brett Elspas, MommyBlogExpert

The beautifully-designed Ambassadors of the Environment facility which just opened in June at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel features a state of the art environmental and cultural education center that brings forth a mind-boggling array of rotating fun, educational nature activities and excursions led by expert naturalists.  All these -- both those events coordinating with specific holidays like Halloween and those provided 7 days per week year-round -- are geared toward giving young and old a wonderful variety of hands-on ways to learn about Southern California's unique ecosystems.

Fossilized Cocoa Bean Leaf Sculptural Jelly Fish Lamp
Photo Above by Janis Brett Elspas, MommyBlogExpert

From kelp beds, the intertidal zone, sandy beach, terrestrial ecology, native cultures, and sustainable living concepts, there are always new things to learn about the area's regional environment.  The cause extends into the world at large, too.  Programming also demonstrates how what's happening locally connects to the larger global systems and why it's so important that we must take an active role in rehabilitating and preserving the environment for generations to come.  

The youth element of Ambassadors of the Environment, in particular, not only strives to teach kids about the natural environment we live in. It also is intended to empower the young with the tools and inspiration needed to take eco responsibility in their own hands and into the future.

Collin Keeps Score While One of the Kids Feels Inside the Box
Photo Above by Janis Brett Elspas, MommyBlogExpert

The opening evening Creatures of the Night program that my four teens (triplets, age 13, and big brother, 14) enjoyed began -- appropriately enough -- as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.  The very creative, enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable Collin orchestrated the entire fast-paced evening for the bright-eyed young clientele under the watchful tutelage of Lyn Michelle Evins, director of Ambassadors of the Environment at Ritz-Carton Laguna Niguel.

The Kids Enjoy a Sunset, Ritz-Carlton Style
Photo  Above by #1 Elspas Son, MommyBlogExpert

Following an introductory indoor presentation about some rather unusual living creatures, the kids and their adventurous group leader headed to the Ambassadors' Outside Nature Center located in the property's indescribably lovely backyard perched on a bluff overlooking the surf below.  There, the night's group of 11, 12, 13, and 14 year-old boys and girls played games in the dark to challenge their senses such as Ghost Catcher and Echo Locator to learn more about how animals, such as dolphins and bats, communicate in different ways with each other.  Just after the outdoor games commenced -- as if on cue -- a wild bunny rabbit popped its head out of the lush landscaped border and frolicked across the lawn.
The Kids Interacting During the Shadow Show
Photo Above by Ambassadors of the Environment Staff

After the tweens and teens ran off some steam under the influence of the evening's fresh ocean air, everyone came back inside for a full schedule of more educational but fun activities including a shadow game show competition, a Harry Potter-style Jelly Belly tasting, and the opportunity to dissect owl pellets.  For another activity, participants were blindfolded to feel what's inside a box.  Using only their senses of smell and touch, even this particularly intelligent group had trouble identifying the really zany concoctions that the kitchen dreamt up to challenge them.

As the evening wound down, the kids devoured several delectable platters of beautifully presented organic fresh fruits and vegetables specially prepared and personally served to us by Chef Benjamin III with a side of his super secret Ranch Dressing.  The Ambassadors' Organic Menu offers kid-friendly, gourmet cuisine that just about any child will enjoy looking at as well as eating.  From such unique offerings as So Cal Fries: California avocado fries served with Bumble Bee mustard to Slippery Sliders: Vintage natural filet sliders, organic white cheddar, homemade pickles with Granny Smith apple slaw to Sea Otter Pops: A trio of citrus popsicles and seasonal berries, Chef Ben delights in preparing healthy fare for every child's palate.
Kid-Friendly Organic Vegetable & Fruit Presentations
Both Photos Above by Janis Brett Elspas, MommyBlogExpert

It's hard to believe that these youngsters experienced all this and learned so much in the space of a mere three short hours.  Seeing the Creatures of the Night after glow in my teens' eyes following this activity as well as hearing them continuing to talk excitedly about it upon our arrival home, solidified my first impressions about this novel concept.  Clearly, the Ambassadors of the Environment appears to be well-poised to become a long-term asset not only to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and to the other two Ritz-Carlton properties offering this program, but also to family-friendly luxury travel in general.

No one could sum up that sentiment better than my 14 year-old son who -- referencing the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth -- said, "I think that the Ambassadors of the Environment just might be the next Al Gore."

Read More Posts On
Ritz-Carlton & Ambassadors of the Environment 
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Creatures of the Night Event
Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment 

FTC Disclosure:  To facilitate MommyBlogExpert's multiple blogpost coverage of the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and its Ambassadors of the Environment, her family received hotel accommodations at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, as well as passes to attend Creatures of the Night.  I did not receive any other payment or compensation associated with this post.  See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.

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