Posts in Category: Outdoor Education

New School Year, New Classes, and New Faces

Fall season has arrived here at Pathfinder Ranch and many new exciting staff, programs, and animals have sailed in with the crisp Autumn air. With Summer behind us our new Naturalists are channeling their inner Dusky Wood Rat and scurrying to perfect lesson plans as we welcome our first students of the season.

This new school year has also allowed us to revamp old power point presentations as well as begin a new evening program. We have added Catapults to our evening programming that explores students’ creative side. Students will construct and test their own method of catapulting using just a few materials and basic physics concepts. The students will launch little piggy’s to test their catapulting devices (no animals are harmed in this activity).

Another program we have added to our rainy day activities that we are extremely excited about is Weather! What better time to explore weather patterns then during a rain day? The students will conduct and test different experiments to help better understand how weather works.

Pathfinder Ranch has been lucky enough to add two exquisite animal friends to our mammal family. Barkley, who is a Hanoverian Thoroughbred, is our newest member of the Equine family. Barkley is the only Warmblood horse in the herd who formerly competed in dressage and jumping!

Barkley, the newest member of our herd.

Barkley, the newest member of our herd.

Terwilliger is our newest member to the wonderful nature center. Terwilliger is a very cute, rambunctious, and furry Chinchilla. Speaking of furry, Terwilliger has 60 hairs per follicle! Chinchillas hail from the Andes Mountains in South America. We will be celebrating her first birthday in October!!

Chillin' with our chinchilla.

Coral chillin’ with our chinchilla.

There is much to be excited about here at Pathfinder Ranch from our excited new Naturalists to the changing of seasons to the new and revamped programming. We are looking forward to all the schools attending our program this fall!

Peace and a warm fleece,

Pathfinder Ranch

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!



Often, students enjoy our surplus produce in the form of mid-class snacks!

Often, students enjoy our surplus produce in the form of mid-class snacks!

It’s the middle of spring, and that can only mean one thing… Permaculture is in the air. What is permaculture? Well, it’s a philosophy, it’s a style of gardening, it’s classes we teach here at the ranch, and it’s super easy to understand and practice!

Permaculture starts with three basic principles: care for people, care for the Earth, and return the surplus. Caring for people is as easy as feeding folks good food. Using water appropriately is one example of caring for the Earth. And return the surplus? Do birds ever eat out of your garden? Do you have a compost pile? These are both excellent ways to return the surplus.
It’s also important to recognize the work done by some of our non-human friends. That pesky gopher is aerating and loosening the soil making it easier for new roots to grow later.  Here at the ranch we’ve paid our gophers with at least one Swiss chard, two beets, and a spinach plant (but it was on its way out). That Peter Cottontail who keeps visiting your carrots also helps fertilize for next season. Those annoying insects that buzz around our heads pollinate crops like zucchini and pumpkins. Everybody likes a healthy garden, especially naturalists and their students!

The Pathfinder garden features an herb spiral from which students can taste new flavors and Nauralists can spice up their meals!

The Pathfinder garden features an herb spiral from which students can taste new flavors and Nauralists can spice up their meals!

So you may be wondering, “How can I put these ideas to use?” Where do we start!? Support local farms who practice permaculture principles. Start a garden bed for veggies or native flowers. The Monarch butterfly looooooves milkweed; so check your local native plant nursery. If you have the space, you can start a compost pile for your food scraps and napkins. If you already have a compost pile and you use it for you own garden, you can encourage others in your community to do the same. Then you’ll have someone to trade veggies with. Even if you only have a small space, gardening will help you “take care of people”, by growing your own cooking herbs on your windowsill or maybe a potato tower on your porch. Here’s one more link on how to grow some of your own vegetables in containers.

Spring’s halfway through, but for us here in sunny southern California we still have a long growing season ahead. Happy planting from everyone here at Pathfinder Ranch.

Capture the Sun

We only utilize a small fraction of the sun’s energy for human purposes. A larger amount of sunlight is used in photosynthesis and warms the planet, but much of the light from the sun simply goes unused. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find ways to harness more of the sun’s energy?

Students gathered around to witness the cooking power of the sun.

Students gathered around to witness the cooking power of the sun.

One simple way people can harness the sun’s unused light energy is to use a solar oven. Here at Pathfinder, we have a professionally built solar oven that we bring out for students. On a warm January day, it will reach over 250 degrees Fahrenheit! In summer, our oven can easily top the 300 degree Fahrenheit thermometer in the oven. We’ve made many the tasty treat for our students using this great piece of technology.

Solar Salsa, cooked in our solar oven

Solar Salsa, cooked in our solar oven.

There are also plans on the internet about how to build your own solar oven out of simple supplies like a pizza box and aluminum foil. Follow this link to one such project, courtesy of Scientific American. ( Your pizza box oven can get up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s warm enough to melt cheese and chocolate!

There are also many kits that can be purchased to help students learn about how solar energy can be transformed into electrical energy. These kits utilize small solar panels so that students can experience solar engineering first hand.  To find the right kit for you, try using the search terms solar energy kit or renewable energy kit.

Students used their engineering skills to construct a solar windmill.

Students used their engineering skills to construct a solar windmill.


Solar energy is a growing field of energy production. Who knows? Perhaps a student of today will innovate the next great leap in harnessing the sun’s rays for human use.

The sun is shining and waiting for us to use it!

No one here but us chickens….

I am very pleased to introduce you to some of Pathfinder Ranch’s lovely animals, the chickens.

There are a wide variety of chicken breeds that all have unique traits and personalities, and these are able to fill different purposes such as food, pets, or novelty.  Here at Pathfinder Ranch, we have a mix of all three.

Red Star chickens are great egg layers!

Red Star chickens are great egg layers!

Silkie chickens are usually raised as pets or as show animals.

Silkie chickens are usually raised as pets or as show animals.

Our Red Stars, Ameraucanas, Leghorns, and Wyandottes lay on average one egg every 26 hours (yum!). We also have our delightful Silkie chickens that make great pets and look amazing.

And of course, normally used for novelty, we have a magnificent Polish hen. Only at Pathfinder Ranch can you find our very own Beyoncé. As one can tell from the pictures of the glorious black and white hen with the crown of feathers on the top of her head, Beyoncé is one beautiful bird. Beyoncé had her name bestowed upon her due to a trial equal to her glamor.

One fateful day our then-nameless Polish hen was discovered with a mysterious leg injury that left her unable to walk. Now, any normal chicken would have been the next pot pie for dinner, but not this one!  No! Instead, one of our staff members gave her just the chance she needed: a safe place to heal with food and water in pecking distance. Slowly but surely each day she could move a little more, and after a week she could prop herself up. Then, a fortnight after the fateful day of her injury, this hen was hopping around. And finally, after a month of recuperation, our polish hen could walk again. She was indeed a survivor. Needless to say, any animal, man, or beast, that is such a survivor and still has such great hair should be given a proper name. Thus Beyoncé earned her keep as well as her name.

Beyonce, our Polish Hen, has a unique story.

Beyonce, our Polish Hen, has a unique story.

Beyonce sports an epic crown of feathers.

Beyonce sports an epic crown of feathers.

Come be in awe and visit her soon!

March Night Skies

An extraordinary view of constellation Orion.

An extraordinary view of constellation Orion. You can see the three stars in the center make up his belt, and the two below and above make up his feet and shoulders.

We have had some great nights of astronomy class recently here at Pathfinder Ranch. If you are a star gazer yourself, make an effort to get out on those nights around the new moon when the stars will be easier to see! If you look into the sky tonight from somewhere on the northern hemisphere, you will see some northern winter constellations glowing brightly – Orion the hunter is by far the most distinct in the sky at this time, and can easily be found by looking for the three bright stars of his belt.

During these moonless nights, you may also be able to spot Comet Lovejoy in the early-evening, as it slowly makes its way from the foot of Andromeda towards Cassiopeia.

Comet LoveJoy C/2014 Q2 on February 13th, 2015

Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 on February 13th, 2015

Remember that a comet is an object with a nucleus made up of rocks that are trapped in ice! When passing close to the sun, the ice heats up and turns to gas and the particles within are released as dust. This is why many comets have a tail! You can use this online finder chart  from Sky and Telescope to see where it will be tonight!

Happy star gazing from all of us here at Pathfinder Ranch!

Announcing the New Zero Waste Awards!

Household food waste in New York

Household food waste in New York (Image courtesy of WikiCommons)


In the United States, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, which averages to more than 20 pounds of food waste per person per month.[i]


Ninety-seven percent of our food waste goes to landfills.  This means that 33 million tons of food goes into landfills each year.[ii]


Help win a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Plate for your school!

Help win a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Plate for your school!



There are things that we can do!  If you have already been to Pathfinder, you know all about Garbology and how you can do Garbology at home.  If you are new to Pathfinder, check out this blog from March 6th to find out all about how Garbology works.  Then, you can practice at home and at school before you come up to Pathfinder.  Practice will be important because we are starting an awards program for schools that achieve zero waste at meals.  In addition to the pride of knowing they are awesome and have zero waste meals, schools can now earn awards for zero waste meals! Schools that have zero waste for three or more meals are awarded the Gold Plate.  Schools that have two meals of zero waste are awarded the Silver Plate, and schools that have one meal of zero waste are awarded the Bronze Plate.  So start practicing, and get ready to earn your school the Gold Plate award!

[i] United Nations Environment Programme. (2015, January 1). Food Waste: The Facts. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from

[ii]  USDA and US EPA. Waste Not, Want Not. Feeding the Hungry and Reducing Solid Waste Through Food Recovery. EPA 530­R­99­040

Season’s Reflections

As yet another season comes to an end here at Pathfinder Ranch we take a moment to reflect back on this fall’s accomplishments. By the end of this week we will have seen almost 2,400 students. We started the season with sunshine and some thunderstorms, and will be ending with rain and cold. Through it all staff and students alike have kept positive and enthusiastic attitudes.

We were lucky enough to make it through this busy fall with minimal illness for Ranch residents including our horses, farm and nature center animals. Unfortunately, some of our free range chickens were taken away by local coyotes, but we’re hopeful for new Silkie chicks in the next few weeks! Hopefully our January and February schools will get a chance to see newly hatched chicks!

One of our most exciting additions to the Ranch is the High Tunnel. It is currently home to many seeds and starter plants that will weather the winter inside, and give us a head start on next spring’s garden plans. It has also proven an excellent shelter from the much needed rain showers over the past few weeks.

Overall this season has been full of improvements, growth and excitement. Here’s looking forward to an equally amazing spring!

Students enjoying a geology class in the National Forest.

Students enjoying a geology class in the National Forest.

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:



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


  • 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


  • 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).