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Charmlee Wilderness Park (Sara Wilson)

Reviewed by: 
Sara Wilson
Columbus Middle School
7th/8th Grade Science


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2577 Encinal Cyn. Rd.
Malibu, CA 90265

Charmlee website

DescriptionCharmlee Wilderness Park is located over 532 acres within the Santa Monica Mountains. The park includes over 8 miles of hiking trails, native plant displays, and a nature center. Programs include school and group nature programs and a variety of public hikes.

Charmlee History
Charmlee’s history begins with its earliest
residents, the Chumash Indians, that can be
traced back 10,000 years. A number of archeological sites within the Park show evidence that the Chumash culture existed in
Malibu and at Charmlee as early as 8,000 BC.

When the Spanish came in the 18th century
and colonized California, they began establishing cattle ranches in Malibu. As decades passed, the land that Charmlee sits on was bought by many different families and generations into the early 1900’s. Clyde Brandenburg purchased 295 acres
between Lachusa and Encinal Canyons, which expanded the current property. In 1950 he sold all of the land to his son, Leon
Schwartz (Lee). Lee and his wife, Charmian (Charm) named their ranch Charmlee Ranch and lived there until a fire destroyed their house in 1956.

After being sold to many other developers, Charmlee was then turned over to Los Angeles County and became Charmlee Regional County Park which opened up to the public in 1981. It remained under control of the county until 1999, when it was deeded to the City of Malibu. Charmlee now has over 5,000 hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers and nature
lovers walking its 8 miles of trails 360 days a year.

Charmlee Geological History - Created by CSULB

Charmlee Mapping Project - CSULB project

Charmlee Park


Audience: This can include anyone from elementary school to college level (as evidenced by the CSULB project). However, for the purpose of this I will focus on middle school 7th grade life science. This will be offered as extra credit for my students. 
  • A life science teacher would benefit from discussion of different native plant species and animal species using photos of tracks as identifiers.
  • An environmental science teacher would benefit by discussing invasive weed species and having students map their location.
  • This location also has docent-led full moon hikes for stargazing, moon phase discussion and  nocturnal animal observation.
Science Concepts Addressed: Give examples of specific science concepts that may be addressed by visiting the field trip site and explain how they are addressed. 
  • Ecology: Invasive weed presence
  • Biology: Native plant identification and mapping.
  • Biology: Animal track identification
  • Biomes and Ecosystems:  Coastal Sage scrub.
Study Guide:  Develop a study guide that could be used by students visiting this site. The study guide should be very clear and address specific science concepts. 
  • Tasks:  Identification of plants, animal tracks and identification/mapping of invasive weed species
  • Observations:
  1. Identify 7 plant species present in this coastal sage scrub.
  2. Draw each of the plant species and list 3 distinguishing features for each species.
  3. What do these native species have in common?
  4. Why do you think there are so many commonalities between different types of native plants?
  5. In the paths on the trail can you find any animal tracks. Draw, measure and hypothesize which type of animal created the track.
  6. Locate, photograph and identify 2 different invasive weed species not native to the area. Mark location on the map.
  7. What type of ecosystem is found here and what are the key features of this environment.
  8. Why are invasive weeds a threat to the local ecosystem?
  9. What would you recommend that the park system do to deal with invasive weed species?
  10. How would you educate the local community about invasive weeds found in the area?
  • Higher Order Questions / Activities:
  1. Design a plan for dealing Charmlee park's invasive weed problem. Create an invasive weed identification guide, put together a plan for eradicating the invasive weeds without causing damage to the local ecosystem, map locations of invasive weed outbreaks in the park. (Include a procedure and list of materials, resources needed to accomplish the task)
  2.  Create a powerpoint presentation of at least 7 different native species that can be found in the park. Include a map of the park with the location of where each was found for reference.
  3. Design a guide to animal tracks in the area with measurements of the size of the tracks and characteristics/illustrations to help people identify different animals in the park by their tracks. (Should be done in the early morning, best a couple days after rainy weather)

Native Plants at Charmlee

Invasive Weed Species

For additional information

San Diego News Article on Charmlee

Invasive weed website for California

Animal track identification

Sara Wilson,
Nov 16, 2011, 8:42 PM