Naturalists at Large, Wildflowers


For Teachers

  • Does NAL do service learning or service projects?

    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.

  • Does NAL have any openings for new groups?

    Just give us a call to find out! Or visit our trip inquiry page here…

  • How long or short are NAL trips?

    We offer one-day programs or multiple day excursions. Please inquire for more specifics.

  • Does NAL own the site?

    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.

  • Who does NAL work with?

    Naturalists at Large’s main clientele are public and independent school groups of grades K-12. We work with other groups such as Girl and Boy Scouts and Elderhostel programs. Don’t think you fit the mold? Call us and find out! 

  • Does NAL do summer programs?

    We offer our programs throughout the year to schools and other institutions.

  • How many students can we bring?

    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.

  • Does NAL handle transportation?

    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.

  • How far in advance should I book?

    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.

  • How many adults can I bring?

    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 have students with special needs, can NAL accommodate them?

    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.

  • How is my cost affected if my participant numbers change?

    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.

  • What will our students do?

    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.

  • May I make changes to the contract?

    Yes, call and discuss the requested change and then simply make a note next to the change indicating who approved it.

  • What happens if I fall below the minimum contracted number of participants?

    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.

  • Where do I find directions for my bus company?

    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.

  • Can I use last year's release forms for this year's program?

    No, there are often changes made to these forms to keep them current and in line with California law. Also, your site may change. It is vitally important you use the current form received with your CURRENT school packet for your upcoming program.

  • How do I contact faculty or students in case of emergency?

    Call the Naturalists At Large general phone number: (805) 642-2692 and follow the emergency voice mail instructions. We have administrative staff on call 24 hours a day. If you do not get a reply within 15 minutes, try again.

  • Can we use cell Phones and Media Players?

    Cell phone technology tends to detract from the group process and outdoor experience that our trips are designed to deliver. Many of our sites do not have a viable cell phone signal. Naturalists at Large would prefer that cell phones are not used or carried during program hours. Use of cell phones and personal media players on the bus and during student free time should be dictated by the school.

For Parents

  • Who is my Field Coordinator?

    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.

  • How do I contact my child when they are on a NAL program site?

    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.

  • What do the students eat?

    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 that everybody is well fed.

  • What happens if the weather turns?

    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.

  • Do I have to follow the equipment list exactly?

    Naturalists at Large equipment lists prepare our participants for inclement weather. While it is possible that the students may not use all of the items they bring, it is recommended that you follow it closely.

  • How much do I have to spend on this stuff?

    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.

Food and Dietary Concerns
  • Can you guarantee a safe environment for my child in regards to food issues?

    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.

  • Can you ensure specific brands of foods?

    We cannot accommodate requests for specific brands of food or ingredients to avoid. On our OLC programs it is difficult to know what specific brands of foods we will be able to secure until one or two days before the program. In general, our instructors finish a program on Friday, drive to their next site and stop at a variety of stores on the way to buy food for the trip. This is why it is hard to secure specific brands. We are not sure what we will have until we assess the store inventory. Our Lodge programs generally have a better idea about brands and types of food since their menus are more consistent, and their food provider rarely changes.

  • Will my child be able to read food labels of the items you serve?

    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.

  • Can you cook separate meals for my child?

    Cooking in the outdoors is a difficult job. Especially on larger trips, our time is scripted down to the minute. We will do everything we can to make sure your child gets the sustenance they need, but it may not be possible to cook an entirely different batch of pasta for them for example. If we have the time to do so, we will. It would be best to place a faculty, or adult in charge of cooking this food, and we will provide them with the tools to do so.

  • Will ingredients be premixed?

    All of our meals are served buffet style.  We do not build individual sandwiches, burritos, burgers, etc. for your child.  That will be something they do while moving through the dinner line.  This makes it easy for them to avoid the foods that they need to avoid.  We also don’t premix salads with dressing or other items.

  • Do you serve peanuts?

    We have adopted a “Peanut sensitive” menu for all of our OLC programs. This means that we will avoid peanuts, peanut butter, and foods that clearly contain peanuts (Peanut butter Captain Crunch for example). We cannot go so far as to avoid foods that have the disclaimer “May have been processed in a facility that processes peanuts” or any other disclaimer of the same nature. We don’t say this to be inflexible. Imagine buying food for 80 students for 5 days for a total of over 1000 meals. It is a big, time consuming job. For Lodge programs, we cannot control the presence of peanuts, though many lodges and camps will take peanuts and peanut butter off the menu via a request from our Field Coordinator.

  • Do you serve tree-nuts?

    At the request of the administrator from your school, we will accommodate a “Tree-nut sensitive” menu. All of the stipulations in the Peanut section above apply. We feel that this request should be well thought out, because it becomes much more difficult to provide protein for participants who are burning lots of calories during long, fun days.

  • Can you accommodate dairy allergies?

    We provide Soy Milk and Rice milk on our OLC menus. Most lodges will provide these items with advance notice as well. Please notify us of dairy allergies so we make sure that we have enough. To be safe, we recommend sending dairy alternatives which we will store and manage. There may be other snacks and foods that your child will want to avoid based on the specific allergy and the intensity of the allergy. (Trail mix with milk chocolate for example) For more severe dairy allergies or Whey allergies, specific discussions with NAL will be important. It will be likely that sending alternatives from home is the best way to proceed.

  • Can you accommodate gluten allergies?

    For a wheat, gluten, or dairy free menu it is best to talk with the Field Coordinator at Naturalists at Large about the menu for your program and see the menu page on our website. The Field Coordinator can tell you which meals will be served, and you can use the menu page as a guide for supplementing. We will assist in the management and handling of this food to the best of our ability. You can expect the following items on the menu for any of our OLC programs: Corn Flakes for breakfast, Fritos and Corn chips for snacks, corn tortillas and corn chips for Burrito dinner.

  • Can you accommodate Vegans and Vegetarians?

    Many of our staff is Vegan and Vegetarian. If your child is a vegetarian you will not have to worry or send any additional menu items. Each meal has a vegetarian option. For Vegans, there is also ample food to choose from. It would be best to supplement certain items to ensure that your child has a good alternative to protein specific needs. A veggie burger or two (since ours may have cheese), some vegan cheese slices, Tofurky for sandwiches and soy milk for breakfast are probably a good start.

  • What do you do with the food I send along, and how does my child access it?

    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.

  • Can you accommodate Celiac disease?

    We will take as many steps as we can to avoid cross-contamination issues, but as you most likely know, Celiac disease can difficult to manage. Avoiding cross-contamination issues while cooking in the outdoors can be especially difficult. We cannot provide separate utensils, bowls, pots, wash basins, etc. We can attempt to set up the buffet lines in order to limit this problem, but there is no guarantee that it will suffice. More dialogue with your Field Coordinator will be important for your decision to place your child on this trip. Above all else it should be an informed decision made by you and your physician.

  • What about Anaphylaxis?

    All of our instructors are trained in basic first aid and CPR, and many hold a Wilderness First Responder Certification. Advance notice of your child’s allergy is important. We most likely will receive this information by talking to you and the faculty in charge of the program, and we also require a list of medical red flags from your school. Using this list, we will pair our most highly trained staff with the students who carry Epi-pens for possible anaphylactic reactions. Provided the prescription is for your child, the particular instructor or faculty present has specific training in the diagnosis, use, and administration of Epi-pens, and we have express permission from you to administer the drug, we will do so if we deem it an anaphylactic reaction. A school representative will be the first line of defense however. If there is a teacher trained in the use of Epi-pens, we will opt to have them administer the drug. You are welcome to provide this medical direction on a letter to us, via your physician, or by specifying this on the prescription drug form that will be sent to you by the school. This is limited to Epi-pens, and not a needle and vial of Epiniphrine. We encourage any student with a prescription for Epinephrine to bring two full doses with them to the program. Your child should carry one dose, and the school faculty in your child’s trail group should carry the other. A couple of Benadryl that your child has easy access to is also a good idea for obvious reasons. Our Instructors also carry Antihistamines in the event that yours are inaccessible.

  • Should my child come on this program?

    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.

  • What meals will you serve on my child’s trip? What is the menu?

    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.