Santa Margarita Elementary School LATO

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Santa Margarita Elementary School LATO Highlights

Santa Margarita Elementary School (SMES) is where LATO began in 2005. Part of Atascadero Unified School District, it is a rural school with approximately 270 students, K–5th grade, located in Santa Margarita, CA.

The school is surrounded by the oak woodlands of the 13,000-acre Santa Margarita Ranch, a historic California ranch owned by Karl Wittstrom, Doug Filipponi and Rob Rossi. The ranch owners have made LATO possible through a license agreement with The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County allowing guided educational hikes, field studies and habitat enhancement projects in the area just beyond the school playground.


    SMES Nature Classroom

    The Atascadero Unified School District has provided a dedicated classroom on campus to develop as a center for LATO activities. With support from our community, this spacious classroom is undergoing transformation into a vibrant place for training Oak Ambassadors, field trip lessons and learning enrichment activities. The classroom currently features several Cal Poly Senior Projects developed specifically for the LATO Nature Center as well as projects created by SMES Oak Ambassadors.


    Santa Margarita Ranch LATO Trail

    The Santa Margarita Ranch LATO Trail is located on private property; access is restricted to guided educational hikes and activities. Click here for directions and details to help you prepare for a scheduled field trip.

    This trail meanders through oak woodlands and grasslands of the Santa Margarita Ranch. Oaks growing here include Coast Live Oak, Valley Oak and Blue Oak.

    Gateway to Nature

    The Gateway to Nature, located along the H St. entrance to Santa Margarita School, is a learning landscape featuring a monarch butterfly and other native pollinators habitat with educational signage.

    Marguerite’s Native Oak Community Landscape

    Marguerite’s Native Oak Community Landscape is located at the entrance to the Santa Margarita Ranch LATO Trail, near the end of the school parking lot.

    The goals of this project are to beautify the trail entrance area, to restore the local native plant community, and provide a place for kids and families to learn about native flora.