Naturalists at Large’s experience has been that the students’ participation in the process of learning and living together provides the basic framework for a successful outdoor education program. The program emphasizes outdoor skills along with an introduction to the various environments of the Santa Barbara Mountains and seashores. Naturalists at Large takes responsibility for all evening activities, in addition to the day’s activities.
Students discover the unique natural and human history of the area, develop group cooperation through shared experiences, enhance leadership abilities, and learn basic outdoor skills. All Naturalists at Large programs are intended to give the students a “sense of place”. This is accomplished by introducing them to the natural and cultural history of the canyon and surrounding area while they explore the trails, study the various habitats, and live in the area for three to five days.
Organized into groups of twelve to fourteen, students discover the unique natural history of the area, and solve problems posed by their instructors. Naturalists at Large instructors work with their groups to teach basic outdoor travel skills, conduct educational activities (primarily hands-on activities) on the canyon trails. Students are placed in situations that encourage them to work together. In addition, they are constantly encouraged to solve problems posed by the Naturalists at Large instructors, comprised of both intellectual problems and well thought-out and well executed physical problems (i.e. initiative activities). There is an educational component to all activities.
Each trail group is with a Naturalists at Large naturalist-instructor and a faculty or parent chaperon for the entire program. Working in pods of 2 or 3 trail groups, each pod rotates to a new location each day, participating in activities that focus their attention on a particular concept or environment. The activities use active learning techniques plus “hands on” games and learning activities to help students grasp concepts.
Areas of Study
- Freshwater biology, stream ecology, and the water (hydrologic) cycle
- Saltwater biology, tidepool, marine environments
- Plant communities – botany, ecology, plant classification, taxonomy & the use of plant keys
- Adaptations of plants and animals for surviving this land of little rain
- Geology – landforms and weathering
- The stars – the solar system, cosmology, star identification & constellations
- Environmental resource management
- Water resources – pollution, sewage treatment, water sources
- Outdoor skills
- Invertebrate zoology & bird watching
We will also stress the importance of safe outdoor travel. Emphasis will be tailored to complement the goals of the school.
- The academic aspects of the program emphasize the study of water: fresh, marine, and brackish
- The natural history of the Santa Barbara Mountains
- Human’s role in the modification of the mountains
- Using natural resources wisely
Leadership development and decision-making is enhanced through group building and initiative activities.