Yes! NAL offers a variety of different service learning projects at a variety of sites. Currently, we have service projects established in Joshua Tree National Park, Catalina Island, Pinnacles, Yosemite, and in the Santa Cruz area. Check out our service learning page for more information on our projects. Have a specific project or area in mind? Let us know and we'll work together in order to create a program that fits your goals.
We offer one-day programs or multiple day excursions. Please inquire for more specifics.
The Naturalists at Large office is based in Ventura, California. We rent space from other camps or lodges, or arrange camping space from State and National entities. Since NAL is not tied to one or two sites, we can offer the flexibility to match you with the site that meets your goals.
We offer our programs throughout the year to schools and other institutions.
Naturalists at Large has no set numbers for minimum or maximum student counts. Most times our maximum/minimum numbers are dictated by the site, your chosen options, and our availability. Lower student counts do tend to increase the price of a program.
It is generally more cost effective for schools to arrange bus transportation to and from the school, but Naturalists at Large can also arrange this for you. NAL will also assist with transportation needs for off-site activities during your program, as well as boat transport to and from Catalina Island.
There is no such thing as booking a program too early. Many of our camping sites have to be reserved 12 months in advance. Many of our lodge-based sites have limited availability. But, there is also no such thing as “too late”. Give us a call to explore your options.
At the minimum, we need your school to bring one teacher/chaperon per student trail group, and one extra teacher as the lead faculty is highly recommended. On tent camping programs, we allow one teacher per ten students free of charge. On our Lodge based programs, we offer a reduced cost for the same ratio of 10:1. We round up, so 42 students=5 adults at the discounted price, for example.
We encourage all of our students to participate in programs to the best of their abilities. Depending on the activity, or terrain, and student, certain arrangements will need to be made ahead of time in order to ensure a successful experience. This is something that the parent/school and NAL representative will work on together before the trip begins. We also suggest that the family doctor gets a basic understanding of the itinerary, and gives their opinion on the matter as well.
Unless there is a significant change in your number of participants, the three deposits remain the same. You will be sent a final accounting after your program showing the actual participants, cancellations and any other relevant fees. Your deposits will be deducted from these charges and you will be invoiced for any further amount due or credited/refunded for any over payments.
During the trip planning phases, you and a trip planning specialist from our office will arrange the details for the itinerary. Our Field Coordinators will get some basic information from you, and put together a proposed itinerary for your review. Often, the site dictates some of the events on your schedule. If we place it there, it may be because it is an option we think you might not want to pass up, based on what we know about your goals. Other options will be solidified in the trip booking phases. For example, you will specify that you want rock climbing when you book a program, and it will be included in your cost.
As soon as you know you will be under your minimum, call us and we will discuss options for adjusting your group size, meeting your minimum with adults, or re-pricing your program. Otherwise, you will be held to the contracted minimum fees.
You will find detailed directions and addresses in the school information packet emailed to you in November for Spring programs and in May for Fall programs.
We have a dedicated office staff in charge of the details of your child's program. This person handles just about everything in relation to the trip in the preparation stages. You can contact this person by calling 805.642.2692.
The best way to contact your loved one during a program with us is to contact your school or our office. We have a number of ways to contact our staff in the event of an emergency.
Naturalists at Large provides well balanced, healthy meals for your experience. Whether it is working with a vendor on site, or providing meals in our own kitchen, we will make sure!
Naturalists at Large staff are prepared with a rainy day program in the event of inclement weather. We will gauge the situation and judge how much will have to change based on the weather and events on the itinerary. We will work together to come up with a feasible substitution, or re-arrangement of the overall schedule. As always, safety and comfort are guiding principles in our decision making process.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to stay comfortable in the outdoors. Closed cell foam pads are effective, and much less expensive than the inflatable models. “Gatorade” style liter bottles will hold up well for many of our programs (backpacks are an exception). Ponchos are a viable alternative to gore-tex style fabrics, and a lot less expensive (Again, backpacking is an exception here). Consider renting items from your local outdoor retailer, such as REI, Sports Chalet, Adventure 16, etc.
We will do everything possible to accommodate your child’s needs, however, there are some requests that are simply not possible to honor. We cannot guarantee a peanut, tree nut, gluten, or dairy free environment on any of our programs.
More often than not this is a simple request to honor. There are cases in which it would not be possible, such as pre-packaged bulk food, when space is a problem on our truck or in a backpack, or when someone simply doesn’t think about it, and throws away packaging by mistake. We encourage our staff to keep food packaging along with the food as often as possible.
We will ice your child's cooler on tent-based programs, or find refrigerator space on our lodge based programs. Many of our Lodge based programs have microwaves, which can drastically help you provide easy to cook meals that resemble the items on the menu. It is best to send your child with a cooler and/or box of food packed with prepackaged/ready-to-eat style meals that require little or no preparation. For items that are available to supplement our menu, please take the time to individually bag those items and label them by meal. You may notice that your child brings some of this food back home. If that is the case, it is likely because your child was able to eat the food we served based on the brand and ingredients, not because it wasn't made available.
Your child will have access to this food during our working hours, and any time they need in the event of an emergency. It is important that this food does not accompany them to bed at most of our sites due to the likelihood of critter visitation. We will show your child and a representative from the school where their food will be day and night. In the night time it will be secured in a food storage bin, facility, or one of our cube trucks.
Your child should always feel comfortable to ask our chefs or Program Coordinators to access their food, or any other items that they have previously seen on the menu. If we have leftovers that are safe to eat, they are welcome to them. It is important that they speak up for themselves if they are not getting the sustenance they need, and we will do everything we can to provide a welcoming platform for that interaction.
YES! We want every child to be able to have this valuable experience. While no experience comes without some risk, we have had success at avoiding issues in the past with proper planning and teamwork between us, you and the school. In the end, it is up to you and your Doctor to decide whether your child's allergy is too serious to keep them safe on a program with us. Consult your Field Coordinator in regards to ambulance response times, hospital drive times, and other specific logistical concerns in regards to your child's specific site.
Each and every detail of our programs is custom built with the school administrator. Sometimes they have specific meal requests, and other times we decide for them. Sometimes meals are set up based on parameters of the site, such as fresh water availability, fire danger, etc. This means that every menu will be a bit different. The best way to proceed would be by talking to the Field Coordinator for our trip, finding out which specific meals will be served, and then viewing our trip menu page (coming soon) to see the specific items that will be served for those meals.
Naturalists at Large is a leading outdoor and environmental education group in California. Since 1985, we have provided outdoor education programs for tens of thousands of students from over two hundred schools, offering custom client designed trips, flexible dates and locations, commitment to safety and comfort in the outdoors, the wonder of nature and the importance of outdoor and experiential education.