Posts in Category: Naturalists

Start of a New School Year

Another school year begins and here at Pathfinder Ranch!  We have just finished with our fall training. It was an exciting training with many new naturalists joining us this season.  There were adventures with hiking and climbing, learning to shoot bows and arrows, and how to swamp a canoe. Doing mad science experiments and building catapults to defend Pathfinder from a rogue dragon were big highlights. Through all of these activities we got to know each other and build our community.  Having the opportunity to attend the Hamilton Museum, in Anza, helped us learn more about our Anza Valley and Garner Valley community history. We also had the opportunity to go down to the Living Desert and had a fascinating introduction to Next Generation Science Standards and how to incorporate them into the experiences we provide participants here.

As fun as training was, we are ready to get going with our fall season and thrilled to have hosted The Bishop’s School from San Diego last week. And this week we are in full swing with another school from San Diego, Warren Walker, and couldn’t be more excited!

Group picture at the top of our ethnobotany trail

Group picture at the top of our ethnobotany trail

The Naturalists and catapult that helped save Pathfinder from the dragon.

The Naturalists and catapult that helped save Pathfinder from the dragon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fungi helping belay Juniper up our climbing tower.

Fungi helping belay Juniper up our climbing tower.

The end is here…

It’s that time of the year again folks! Our Outdoor Education season has coming to a close. While it been sad to say goodbye to all of the Naturalists and staff, we are proud to look back and remember all the differences we’ve made in kid’s lives this season. In fact, taking a look at some statistics, we have had….

5436 Amazing Students          11 Crazy Naturalists

274 Awesome Adult Chaperones          16 Hard-working Horses

706  Dedicated Teachers          37 Fun-filled Weeks

67 Fabulous Schools           1 Perfect Mountain Home

 …but even that doesn’t seem to capture it. I guess you will just have to see what we are talking about in person. Come join us for a fun-filled week of summer camp! Or bring the whole family for a Saturday afternoon of adventure at a round-up! Check out our website and Facebook page to stay up to date on all the great ways you can stay in touch with Pathfinder Ranch. Until we meet again, keep enjoying nature!

 

Winter Reflections

Tracks in the snow

Tracks in the snow

After three fun-filled weeks of training, school groups, and classes, it’s hard to believe that winter break was less than a month ago! As January comes to a close, we have been reflecting on how important it is to step away, and how exciting it is to come back.

Frosty sage and a frozen lake

Frosty sage and a frozen lake

Our staff comes from all over, and when we closed for the holidays, we spread out to every corner of the United States. Naturalists could be found frolicking in the forests of Vermont, snow-shoeing in Montana, reuniting with their dogs in Texas, spending family time in Washington, and even road-tripping through the Midwest. Those who relaxed up here at the ranch were able to witness something exciting, too – the first snow of the season! Whether watched through a window with hot cocoa in hand, or caught on tongues and rolled around in, the snow was enjoyed by everyone lucky enough to see it, and pictures were sent to those of us who were too far away.

No matter where we spent our break or what we spent time doing, a common thread between us all was the time spent with family and friends. Living a wanderer’s life, it is so wonderful to have the opportunity to wander back to the people we love, even just for a week or two. That time spent away from work, reflecting on our lives, friendships, and growth, was truly a blessing. It was a nice reminder that no matter how long you are away, you can always go back home.

We hope everyone had a happy holiday season! Whether you spent it on a faraway adventure or snuggled up in your living room, we hope you spent some time reflecting and celebrating with the people who matter the most.

Happy winter, from our family to yours!

Seasons Greetings

Rainy Days!

What a week here at Pathfinder Ranch! The rain came down hard this week, but that didn’t stop us from having a blast! The kids threw on ponchos and loved playing games and even hiking in the rain. Our students got to spend some great one on one time with the horses including feeding, grooming, and saddling on their own! We also got to take advantage of our great Nature Center, where Gwar the ball python got lots of love from excited kids.

Canyon is handling Gwar as he finishes taking care of the animals.

Canyon is handling Gwar as he finishes taking care of the animals.

Although the rain makes it a little more difficult to get outside and play, we all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we are finally getting some much needed rain here in California. The below average precipitation over the past decade has led to some serious situations such as drinking water shortages, salmon habitat destruction, farm shut downs, and increased prices for crops and livestock. A study on tree rings recently discovered that we are in the worst drought that California has experienced for 1200 years!

The storm dropped a steady amount of rain most of the week.

The storm dropped a steady amount of rain most of the week.

Our washes are filled with water after several months of being bone dry.

Our washes are filled with water after several months of being bone dry.

So, when we get a good rain storm like this, does that mean the drought is over?? Unfortunately not… Though our washes are full of rain water, and our trees are sucking up moisture for now, we must still remain aware of water conservation! Keep those showers short, and don’t forget to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. At home you can also save water by washing only full loads of laundry, not washing cars as often, watering plants early or later in the day, and using drip system irrigation for gardens and plants. Think of other ways you can help save water! Here at Pathfinder, our leftover drinking water from meals is used to mop the floor, we are limited to 3 minute showers, and all of our unused water from hikes goes to our garden and farm animals! There are lots of ways that you can continue helping out with water conservation at home and at school. And of course, it never hurts to do a little rain dance…

Season of Thanks

Time is flying by here at the Ranch; we can’t believe it is coming up on the end of our fall season! We are having such a great season, and since Thanksgiving is a few days away, we figure, why not look back at all we have to be thankful for!?

First, we are thankful for the rain that the Ranch got this past week! You know we will take any rain or snow we can get, but the fact that it came over night and didn’t force any of our classes inside was even better! Plus, who doesn’t like waking up to the fresh smell of rain and ribbonwood?

We are also thankful for the cool fall temperatures and the beautiful leaf colors all over the Ranch! One of the most beautiful views to see the changing leaves is on the horse trail. What an amazing sight!

Some students are enjoying the fall colors and beautiful landscape during their horseback ride!

Some students are enjoying the fall colors and beautiful landscape during their horseback ride!

Our new Silkies are fitting in well with the other chickens at our farm!

Our new Silkies are fitting in well with the other chickens at our farm!

 

We have had a few new additions to Betsy’s Farm! We now have three Silkie chickens and two Silkie roosters. They are loving their new life at the Ranch and are a great addition to our farm. The students love watching them and getting the chance to pet them while out at the farm!

 

 

 

Pathfinder is also thankful for our friends and supporters! In case you missed it, we had an amazing time at the Food Truck FriendRaiser on November 16th at The Living Desert! We saw so many old friends and made a lot of new ones, too, all while listening to great music, eating delicious food and enjoying The Living Desert exhibits!

Last, but certainly not least, we are thankful for all of the students, teachers, and chaperones that have been up here at the Ranch this season and all those who are still to come. We love sharing this gorgeous place with you and teaching more about the world we live in!

And what post about the Thanksgiving season would be complete without a recipe for you to share at your table this holiday season!? Hope you love pumpkin as much as our Naturalists!

Pumpkin Swirl Bread:

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 2 pkgs (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Bread:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups all- purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped dates

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour three 8×4-in. loaf pans. In a small bowl, beat filling ingredients until smooth.
  • In a large bowl, beat sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and water until well blended. In another bowl, whisk flour, pie spice, soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cloves; gradually beat into pumpkin mixture. Stir in walnuts, raisins and dates.
  • Pour half of the batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Spoon filling over batter. Cover filling completely with remaining batter.
  • Bake 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in bread portion comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Wrap in foil; refrigerate until serving.
  • Just before serving, if desired, in a small bowl, mix confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough milk to reach a drizzling consistency. Drizzle over bread; sprinkle with walnuts.

Yield: 3 loaves (16 slices each).

Monster Curse

Every month brings new adventures to Pathfinder Ranch, and October was certainly no exception. The leaves began changing, the weather started to cool, and excitement was in the air. As Halloween approached, the naturalists prepared for their usual festivities. This year, however, something mischievous was afoot!

The evening of October 29 started like any other, with students lining up ready for a night meander that was supposed to include some star gazing and nocturnal animal games. Then, just before the groups left, an evil curse was cast upon the ranch! The staff began turning into horrible monsters one by one. Luckily, the students of Vanguard Preparatory were able to devise a plan- they split into groups to solve the mystery. Over the next hour, they battled monsters, defeated challenges, and explored the dark and treacherous forest. They were able to find all of the ingredients to create an antidote. If they hadn’t been there… Well, Pathfinder Ranch would surely be no more.

Luckily, the antidote saved Pathfinder and turned these monsters back into our naturalists!

Luckily, the antidote saved Pathfinder and turned these monsters back into our naturalists!

Thankfully, Pathfinder Ranch has been 100% monster-free since the incident.

Wishing everyone a happy fall,

The Pathfinder Naturalists

Educator Conference

As always, things have been busy here at Pathfinder Ranch.

Recently, Pathfinder Ranch hosted a semi-annual conference for the California Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (www.AEOE.org or www.facebook.com/caeoe). We had educators coming from all over the southern half of the state. We spent time in the professional development workshops as well as learned some new campfire skits and songs. Several of our own staff presented some of these workshops.

Our Outdoor Education Director, Ryan, facilitated a discussion with other directors to talk about issues we face, and how to improve each of our programs.

Luna and Willow brought out the horses to show how we use them in our classes, and gave participants a taste of our ExCEEd (Equine Centered Experiential Education…team-building with horses) class. Imagine our team challenge programs with a horse as your teammate! There are pictures on our Facebook page of this class in action.

Canyon gave a tour of our nature center including meeting our animals, and discussed how we can make nature center experiences more engaging and meaningful for our students. Look forward to a few more displays and activities when you visit later in the school year!

We went to a workshop on solar energy where we built a solar powered wheelie robot similar to what you can build in our energy class. We also learned some things about solar energy that we will be sharing in our classes.

There was a good workshop on using poetry as a kinesthetic learning tool with some great tips on helping students be very creative while working within the limits of outdoor education.

We also had a great workshop on sustainability, parts of which will go nicely into our permaculture class involving farm animals, garden plants, and energy cycles. It was taught by the Green Camps Initiative (GCI- www.greencampsinitiative.org). The GCI Director shared a lot of fun and thought provoking activities that you will be seeing soon in some of our classes. Visit the website to see some great activities that you can implement back at school and at home. We learned that it takes 5,200 gallons of water to process the ingredients and produce one chocolate bar. Staggering!

We also went to workshops about inclusion, Common Core standards, astronomy, Ant-O-Lympics, citizen science projects, and team-building. We are excited to start using the new things we learned in our classes, and we hope you are excited to see them, too!

See you down the trail!

Let’s Talk Trash!

During the week of October 3rd through October 10th, 2014, Pathfinder Ranch conducted a waste audit.  We collected, sorted, and weighed all of the waste that we produced during that week.  We counted all of the waste going to the landfill as well as waste that was being diverted (i.e. sent to other places).  The diverted waste included food that went to our compost pile and materials that we took to a recycling center.

We did this audit to look at how well we are practicing the three “R’s”: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  In 2002, Pathfinder did our first waste audit, and found that only 27.6% of the total waste was being diverted to compost or recycling.  Since then, we have been doing more and more to reduce how much waste we produce and increase the percent that we divert from landfills.  This year, our waste audit showed that we have increased the percent of our waste diverted to 46.6%!  This is a fantastic change and we owe a big “Thank You!” to all of our visitors for helping us get to this level.

However, we’re always looking for ways to improve.  We want to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills even more.  Here’s how you can help us:

  • We would love to hear your suggestions of how we can reduce our waste by commenting below, messaging us on Facebook, or filling out an evaluation during your trip.
  • Ask a staff member to help you sort your waste into the appropriate places during your trip.
  • Try to reduce the amount of packaging in your sack lunches for your arrival day by purchasing/making foods and drinks with as little packaging as possible.

So why did we do this?

We wanted to know how big our ecological footprint is.  An ecological footprint is how much of an impact we have on our earth’s ecosystems based on the things we do every day.  For example, how long of showers you take, the types of food that you eat, how you get to school, how often you buy new things, and how much waste you create, all affect the ecosystems around us.   You can take a quiz from Islandwood Outdoor Learning Center, to find out your ecological footprint using this link http://footprint-calculator.islandwood.org/ .  You can also complete your own waste audit at school or in your home to see how much waste is being produced and how you can reduce it.  Look at Willow’s blog from October 2, 2013 to find out how to complete your own waste audit.

See you down the Trail!

Spring Has Sprung

Spring is just around the corner, and like the plants that are being reborn all around Pathfinder, the garden is getting revitalized, too! Spring cleaning has begun and the garden is getting a fresh make-over.

New garden look!

New garden look!

 

All hands are on deck as Pathfinder gets ready for the warm weather and 50th year celebration in April. Maintenance began a project in the front lobby to try and get some plants growing even earlier than the cold would allow; and it worked! Live in a cold place, or have soil with little to no nutrients? Check out our experimental hydroponics system. Hydroponics doesn’t require soil. Instead, the plants are placed in plastic containers (drill holes through the sides and bottom) that are filled with shredded coconut medium, which absorbs water and nutrients from the water basin that it’s submerged in. We used an old plastic bin, recycled yogurt containers, an aquarium pump, and 6 gallons of purified water. Instead of daily watering, with hydroponics you can simply add 1 gallon of water every two weeks!

Insides of our hydroponics system.

Insides of our hydroponics system.

Experimental hydroponics in our office lobby.

Experimental hydroponics in our office lobby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only can plants grow year round when protected from the elements outside, but you can also save both space and water! In our experiment, the basil is flourishing but our spinach is not. Try it at home and post the results of your own hydroponics system on our Facebook page. We’d sure love to know!

Another project a few Naturalists have been working on is our compost. As the weather gets warmer, and we want to grow many more things than will fit in our hydroponics system, we need soil for our plants to thrive in. As old plant matter breaks down, it creates fertile soil which you can use for planting. This decomposition harnesses the power of the circle of life. Why buy something you normally just throw away each day? Use those food scraps and start your own compost. Your garden will love you for it!

Covered compost pile.

Covered compost pile.

Chickens rummaging through our compost.

Chickens rummaging through our compost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever composted before? If not, here are a few tips from our resident garden expert, Rain:

1. Dig your compost pile down at least a few inches. This makes the pile easier to turn and keeps heat in. Keeping the pile warmer will produce soil sooner.

2. Cover your compost. Again, this keeps it nice and warm which breaks down material faster. This also helps to keep unwanted critters away.

3. Turn your compost. There are plenty of fun ways to do this, including rolling it around in an old trash can! The reason is simple..all those microbes and other organisms like earthworms that help the food turn to soil need the help of oxygen.

4. Add nearly everything! Add any food waste that comes from plants: bread, veggies, fruit cores and peels, pasta, french fries, coffee grinds, tomato sauce, leaves and twigs, and even old paper, napkins, and tea bags! (Did you know it takes less energy for the paper to break down in the compost than to be recycled into new paper? Plus this added carbon helps the compost to be more nutritious and less smelly!)

Revitalized garden beds.

Revitalized garden beds.

New projects are springing forward to make this year’s garden the most beautiful and bountiful yet! We’ve had some amazing 4th-6th grade gardeners already come and help plant many new crops. How about you? This spring you too could revitalize that little plot of green space or an empty windowsill into a lean, mean food producing machine!

 

Thanks for reading,

Your Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists and Staff

Garbology

For our schools that have already attended, we know that you love and miss garbology (the study of food waste).  For our schools yet to come, we hope you’re getting excited, but why should we keep this important program all to ourselves?! Why not bring Garbology and conservation back to your schools, homes, and local communities?!  To help get you started, you should check out this fun website that talks about garbology: http://www.naturebridge.org/garbology.php.

We graph our food waste for the week on our Garbology chart.

We graph our food waste for the week on our Garbology chart.

The compost pile on the left is still being added to, while the pile on the left is almost ready for our spring planting!

The compost pile on the left is still being added to, while the pile on the right is ready for spring planting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk to your family about studying what you throw away each week.  Then, you can see if you can reduce the amount of waste going to a landfill by looking at what can be REUSED, COMPOSTED, or RECYCLED.  You can find a list of things that can be recycled by looking at your city’s waste and recycling website.

You can bring garbology to your school by encouraging your classmates to look at what they are throwing away at lunch and in the classrooms.  Just like at Pathfinder, the waste from your lunches can be sorted into recycling, compost, and trash.  If you do not have recycling or composting at your school, you can ask your teachers and your principal to help you start these programs.  You can also talk to your school about signing up for a cool program called TerraCycle.  TerraCycle is a company that accepts a variety of used school and office items like empty juice pouches, empty Lunchable containers, and even pens so that they can be made into new products.  You can sign up for this at http://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades.html.

Luna is showing us some of the items we TerraCycle.

Luna is showing us some of the items we TerraCycle.

Good luck and see you down the trail!

-Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists