Monthly Archives: November 2013

Science Journals

Here's a student sampling for macoinvertebrates in our pond, and checking out the other bigger critters. "Is that a tadpole, or a minnow!"

Here’s a student sampling for macroinvertebrates in our pond, and checking out the other bigger critters…”Is that a tadpole, or a minnow?!”

It was a typical day at Pathfinder Ranch with the typical questions for freshwater ecology. The students and I were just about to analyze the macroinvertebrates we’d discovered during our water sampling when a student asked me a question about his science journal. He was trying to remember how to spell “biotic,” because his teacher included correct spelling as part of their journal grades. After working it all out, he smiled and walked back to his group to analyze their sample. Meanwhile, I reflected on this question and the true value of the science journals.

Our students have a variety of needs, and we pride ourselves on taking unique and experiential approaches to benefit their different learning needs. Our science journals accommodate various learning styles, and varying degrees of prior knowledge. In addition to matching, fill-in-the-blanks, and multiple choice questions, we’ve added sections for thoughtful reflection, free hand artistry, and critical analysis of the environment. We want to provide our students with as many opportunities to express their thoughts, and assess the students’ retention levels at the same time. We aim to help build students’ vocabulary, the meaning behind that vocabulary, and their understanding of the environment. Spelling “biotic” correctly is the initial step to understanding the bigger picture of ecology, and that every living thing interacts with one another and their environment in order to survive.

Here's a student filling out their science journal during freshwater ecology.

Here’s a student filling out their science journal during freshwater ecology class.

At Pathfinder Ranch, we are constantly working to improve our curriculum, especially now with the approval of the new Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Some schools and districts have already integrated the Common Core, or parts of it, which has led Pathfinder Ranch’s outdoor education staff (naturalists) to begin looking at our current science journal. Our naturalists have made it a high priority to revitalize our science journal based on these new standards, and the overall direction that education is taking. In this process we are realizing the areas for more growth, new classes and activities, more open-ended questions, and more critical thinking.

With the help of our science journals, we hope that students construct a greater meaning and personal connection to the lessons and memories that they experience while at Pathfinder. These journals should be an immediate tool for students to experience authentic learning. It should also be a tool for when they become adults, and a way to reflect on how their experiences at Pathfinder have affected them as individuals.

So students, keep a close eye on your journal…You never know when you might want to look back at it, and remember all the fun you had while learning in the beautiful San Jacinto Mountains!

Outdoor Education is in Full Swing!

Things are great here at the Ranch, and Outdoor Education is in full swing!  It’s a bit chilly at night, but it’s absolutely perfect during the day, perfect for all of your favorite classes and activities!

Our students come to us for many reasons, looking for different things, hoping to learn what they may.  We are super excited to share with you what our local environment has to offer and how you can learn more about the natural and cultural world that surrounds us.

For those waiting to come up, what are you looking forward to do on your trip?

For those who have already visited, how have you changed your lives since your trip? What do you remember the most?

Archaeology is a favorite for many students, and here is a photo of some students looking for artifacts.

Here are students looking for artifacts.



Archaeology is a favorite for many students, and allows them to explore Garner Valley’s rich cultural history.




This student is searching intently for trash along our trails in hopes of raising the Dash 4 Trash Champions Flag!

Searching for trash along our trails.

Dash 4 Trash is in effect! Thanks to everyone who has helped clean up Pathfinder and the surrounding areas! Who’s going to be the next study group to raise the Dash 4 Trash Champions Flag?!


Looking closely for minerals in the rocks.

Looking closely for minerals in the rocks.


Geology has been pretty popular this fall with students searching intently for minerals and rocks.  Even if you didn’t take Geology, do you remember seeing any cool rocks while at Pathfinder? Have you seen any of those minerals or rocks back in your home communities?



Walking on the Team Challenge skis!

Walking on the Team Challenge skis!




Did you take Team Challenge? What was your favorite activity? What was the most difficult? Here are some students on the team challenge skis. That looks pretty hard.





“Great things are done when men and mountains meet” – William Blake

How does this quote apply to your experiences at Pathfinder, and your lives back at home? What are some great things that happen when people explore the mountains?

Lastly, whether you’re exploring your own backyard, a local park, or the San Jacinto Mountains, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

Desert Rose

Desert Rose