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“So Long and Thanks For All the Fish!”*

We have arrived at the end of another exciting season here at Pathfinder Ranch! From January to June we have had 4,480 students from 41 schools join us here at Pathfinder Ranch. Our students and staff have had an amazing time learning and experiencing nature through hiking and climbing (some even through the snow and rain) and much more!

In other news, we have had a new animal join us this spring named Guibo!  Guibo is a 20 year old donkey from a farm out in Julian.  He is able to pull a small cart and has participated in the Rose Parade 10 years in a row.  Guibo has been having a great time getting to know all our students, staff, and even the other animals.


Look at this adorable face!

Earlier in the spring Pathfinder also welcomed a new clutch of chicks to the farm. Students and staff got to watch the chicks grow from tiny, fluffy, and round, to full grown chickens!


They grow up so fast! First day at the ranch, February 10th.


All grown up, May, 24th.


Just a few days later…









We at Pathfinder Ranch would like to thank all of our students, chaperones, and teachers for such an amazing season. We hope that everyone has a great last few weeks of school and enjoys their summer vacation.


See you down the trail!

Pathfinder Ranch Staff

* Title quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Connecting the Dots

At Pathfinder Ranch, our staff strives to continually grow professionally and individually by participating in professional development opportunities throughout the school year.  Our Naturalists organize and lead peer trainings on subjects such as supporting science standards, positive student behavior management, teambuilding games, environmental conservation topics, and more.

This past weekend nine Pathfinder Ranch staff attended the Annual Statewide Conference of the Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education (AEOE) located in beautiful Malibu at Camp Hess Kramer. With over 274 attendees, conference participants came from all walks of life: formal school teachers, school district employees, nature center educators, conservation researchers, outdoor enthusiast, and from residential education facilities like Pathfinder Ranch.  Workshop topics included: entomology basics, fire ecology, astronomy, composting, and encouraging pollinators.  We are excited to integrate this information in our classes and encourage Pathfinder Ranch students to continually explore, ask questions, understand that science is a part of everyday life, and how everything and everyone is connected.

AEOE campfire - Copy

Pathfinder staff learned new skits and more songs at the AEOE campfire night

To learn more about the Associated of Environmental and Outdoor Education, how to become a member, and upcoming conferences visit their website at

AEOE Group Picture

Our wonderful staff representing us at AEOE

Adventure is out there!

Spring is here and summer is on its way! Now is the best time to get outside and explore Southern California. We have state parks and national parks within a short drive, as well as plenty of smaller county parks and green spaces even closer to home. Here is a list of just a few places you can explore this summer.


A view from Tahquitz Peak in Idyllwild, CA


Joshua Tree National Park is probably one of California’s best known parks. Sunsets and stars at night are outstanding. During the day, there are many hikes and climbing spots to visit. Make sure you bring lots and lots of water for the desert heat!


Idyllwild, CA has lots of hiking trails including trails up to Mount San Jacinto and Tahquitz Peak. It is an easy place to find campgrounds or even rent a cabin for a weekend. The town is a fun place to explore with many small shops and restaurants. The views of Lily Rock are impossible to ignore. Bonus: it’s pretty close to Pathfinder if you want to find a hike in Garner Valley!


Crystal Cove State Park located on the coast in Orange County offers some nice beaches, hiking trails, and rocks to climb around on if you aren’t so interested in deserts or mountains. There are tide pools to check out some sea creatures and there’s also space for camping if you want to spend a night by the beach!


Take a hike up to the Hollywood Sign! It’s a classic for visitors to Southern California, so take your time to experience what so many people come to this place to see!


Julian, CA and Oak Glen, CA are great for apple picking at the end of summer when all of the apples start to ripen! Both places have camping and hiking nearby to burn off the cider and apple pie you’re bound to taste.


If none of these places interest you, take a look through all of your options at these websites:


Find your nearby state park:


Or a nearby county park:

When I say “Team”, you say “Challenge”! TEAM CHALLENGE!

So your kids have come home after an amazing time at Pathfinder Ranch, in Mountain Center. You hear your kid say “We did team challenge” and you think, “What is that?”

Team Challenge has been going on for years at Pathfinder Ranch, but did you know it all started with a non-profit organization called Project Adventure aka PA in Massachusetts? The mission for PA is to provide leadership in the expansion of adventure-based experiential programming.

Here at Pathfinder, your students have the opportunity to challenge themselves to “think differently” and discover their leadership potential.

Starting things off

Every team challenge will start with a pre-brief, which is a way of getting the kids mentally ready to work as a team. Our instructors often use metaphor cards to see how the students perceive the meaning of teamwork and talk about how they’re going to support each of their team members.

Some groups will also talk about the Steps to Problem Solving:

                1. Stay Calm
                2. Define the Problem
                3. Brainstorm (try not to judge)
                4. Evaluate Possible Solution
                5. Choose a Solution
                6. Try it!
                7. Evaluate the Results
                8. Facts
                9. Feelings 

These steps are on cards which allow the students to place them in a meaningful order agreed upon by the group; which creates the team’s full value contract. These steps also allow all students to stop, think, and evaluate their success.



Some of the activities that your student may have done at Pathfinder are:

Championship Find (Large group, played with the multi-image side) – This is a fun, light- hearted, competitive (and noisy) activity.  Using an Ubuntu deck, from High 5 Adventure Learning Center, Vermont USA, give each person a card and ask everyone to find a partner. On your signal, have the partners turn over their cards and race to find the matching image. The person who finds the match first wins and takes the opponent’s card. The person who lost joins the winner’s “team” as an enthusiastic fan and cheerleader. Winners continue to play by finding another undefeated participant to play against, while they’re growing fan bases cheers them on. Play until one person has all the cards and all the fans


Students using an “Ubuntu” deck, from High 5 Adventure Learning Center, Vermont USA to complete a Championship Find initiative

Turnstyle – (Large group, played with a retired climbing rope) This activity takes a long rope or a jump rope. Two facilitators stand in front of each other and turn the rope, much like jump rope. The group’s objective is to get the whole group from one side of the rope to the other, without touching the rope. The group may not go behind the facilitators and there must be one person jumping at all times.


Helium Stick- (medium group, plated with a hula hoop) Take the hula hoop and hold it horizontally about chest height and ask the kids to hold the hoop onto of their index fingers and lower it to the ground as a team. May seem easy, but its challenging if everyone doesn’t come together and work as a team.


Key Punch- (Large group, played with 28 large cards with numbers) The facilitator has the numbers 1-28 written on cards and throws them in the air while the students are in a line shoulder to shoulder. From there, the kids run to retrieve the cards and put them in numerical order from 1-28 with 28 being on top. The timer starts when the facilitator says, “GO” and it stops when everyone is behind the rope line or a line you choose and the cards are in the facilitator’s hand. Typically 3 rounds are done and the students are trying to improve their time.

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Wrapping things up

Throughout all activities, the students are allowed to call a time out and communicate with their team members and create a plan, see how the plan works and reevaluate their progress.At the end of each activity, the students get the opportunity to debrief their experience and how there going to take what they learned back to their communities at home.

One debrief that Fez does is called: What…So What…Now What

There is often resistance and a hesitancy to speak up during a debrief. It may be easiest to get people talking first about:

What: 1. What happened? 2. Who did what? 3. Who was last, who was first, who suggested ideas, who were the leaders, whose ideas was used? 4. When did the group seem stuck, what happened that go the group moving again? 5. Were there times when there was a general group feeling of: frustration, euphoria, etc.? 6. As a group: what were you especially good at, where could you improve?

So What:  1. How do you feel about your own, or the groups, performance? 2. What significant issues did you notice (Or you can ask about specific issues).

Now What: 1. In the next initiative what do you want to do differently based on what you’ve learned? 2. In your school (or where ever), how can you apply these lessons and make them a reality?

About your blogger: Fez has been working at Pathfinder for the past couple of months and comes from Connecticut. Fez also comes from a background of 10+ years of facilitating team-building programs to schools and corporate groups on the east coast and Colorado.  In June, Fez will be getting his ACCT Level 2 Practitioner Certification through High 5 Adventure Learning Center in Vermont.







Earth Day Celebrations

Earth day is April 22nd! Join Pathfinder and people all over the world in honoring the earth. 

Earthday pin

Earth day was first celebrated in 1970 following an oil spill off the coast of Southern California.  This event brought attention to the need for a day to celebrate and care for the earth. 



Find a way to get involved:

April 16th

Celebrate earth day by helping out with Cal Parks!  Follow this link to get connected with a park in your area and help out with park improvement projects including park clean ups and restoration.

April 20th

Earth Day at The Living Desert – This event will offer fun and exciting activities for the entire family. Bring a recyclable item and trade it for a native plant grown at The Living Desert. For more information contact 760-346-5694.

April 21st

Eco-Station Children’s Earth Day - Encourage children to become “green” at this all-day children’s festival. There will be live entertainment, food, games, vendors, and educational activities for children.

April 25th

California Citrus State Historic Park Earth Day Glean and Clean Event - Join your community in citrus tree planting, grove gleaning and clean up along with other earth friendly activities! Free parking for Volunteers. Registration starts at 8 am at the Visitor Center. Cost: Free

Or use this link to find an event:

You don’t have to wait until earth day to celebrate the earth…. Start now!

  • Conserve water at home
  • Plant native wildflowers to help our butterflies and bees
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room
  • Recycle!
  • Save your leftover food to eat again later
  • Use both sides of the paper before you recycle it
  • Clean up trash in your neighborhood
Connect with us on Facebook and let us know what you are doing to help the earth this year 

Pathfinder Picnic

Caramel Apples

These caramel apples were to die for.

Despite gusts of up to 30mph, the Palm Springs Pathfinders trekked up the mountain to enjoy a day full of recreation and great food. The Pathfinder Picnic is held annually to honor and thank the Palm Springs Pathfinders, a women’s group that helped establish and continues to support Pathfinder Ranch. The Pathfinders and their families had the opportunity to participate in archery, canoeing, climbing and horseback rides. We are pleased that they were able to come to the ranch to connect with our staff and experience some of the activities that we offer to our students. The dining hall provided delicious BBQ on tables decorated with re-purposed materials and compostable table cloths to enforce our environmentally friendly mission. The caramel apples were quite the hit! We are excited to share how much Pathfinder Ranch has grown and look forward to seeing our friends next year!’



A beautiful, eco-concious, table arrangement


The kitchen staff stole the show with the delicious meal that they prepared


Spring Gardening


It is officially Spring here at Pathfinder Ranch – the fruit trees are in bloom, our chicks are on their way to becoming full-grown chickens, and our horses are loosing their winter coats. With the weather warming up we have started returning life to the Pathfinder Garden. The naturalists have been working hard in the greenhouse sowing seeds and have started to transplant seedlings in our raised beds. This spring we have broccoli, beets, radishes, lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, and calendula flowers started and that is just the beginning! Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, squash, and many others are soon to follow thanks to donated seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange (


Our tomato plants from Seed Savers are quickly growing

This spring we are also trying out a new gardening method, Square Foot Gardening. Square Foot Gardening is an easy, organic gardening method that keeps maintenance, such as weeding, low. SFG is made for gardening in small spaces where raised beds can be places on top of concrete, grass, gravel, etc. You can learn more about SFG here at-



Our square foot gardening bed is ready to go!


Good websites to check for gardening tips and even starting a garden are:


Happy planting!

Y’all come back now… for our Open House

IMG_4898We’re getting excited for spring and gearing up for summer camp! If you and your family are interested in taking a tour before your trip, or you’re just really interested in our programs, then come join us for our Open House on March 19th! We’ll be offering tours, archery lessons, farm animal interactions, and light refreshments. The event is free, but we do appreciate donations if you decide to participate in archery and/or interact with the farm animals. These donations will go towards new program supplies and equipment for students to use this spring.


In addition to students, Pathfinder Ranch is also busy getting ready for the upcoming Beyond Limits endurance run in late March. Pathfinder Ranch hosts many retreat groups such as church groups, youth leadership, family reunions, events, and weddings.  If you are looking for a place to host your next event, come join us for some fun in a beautiful place! IMG_4893

Attention Teachers: This One’s For You

While most humans at one time or another have wished they could make money and resources simply appear out of thin air, most are unable to accomplish this feat. Teachers, however, possess a hidden talent for making such things happen. All you need is a handful of the right websites, a smidgen of motivation, and the tiniest pinch of time.

The number of grant opportunities available to teachers and schools is vast, so to make the best possible use of your time, we’ve compiled a list of specific resources that are great for nature and garden-based initiatives, as well as a few of our favorite grant search databases.

Grant Opportunities

  • Lowes can help your school get the tools it needs to build a garden, nature trail, natural play area, or anything else you can think of!

  • Garden ABCs has an extensive list of environmental grants, not just gardening grants as the name suggests. This is definitely a resource to keep in mind and in your bookmarks.

  • KidsGardening.Org is a great resource for garden-themed lesson plans and take-home activities, as well as annual grant programs.

Other Teacher Resources

There are also great organizations out there that offer free resources, information, inspiration, and even interaction with the global environmental education movement.

  • GLOBE, short for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, is a spectacular program that involves schools from around the world in monitoring and caring for their local water resources.

  • The California Department of Education has compiled a comprehensive list of state-based environmental education resources and model curricula that are great for teaching a variety of subjects.

  • Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is a nonprofit that offers training, lesson plans, books for students, and posters. They also have their own list of free online resources from other organizations.

  • Project Learning Tree is a fantastic resource for PreK through grade 12 teachers. They have a wealth of curriculum materials, events, and training opportunities.

Winter Weather Advisory: Gale Force Fun Ahead

The New Year has begun here at Pathfinder Ranch and all of the Naturalists are excited for the fresh scent of 2016 in the winter air. After the joyful and busy fall season, we were all excited for winter break and many of us did what we do best with our free time… spent it outside in nature! Many of the staff started their winter migration by flying back to their home towns. We enjoyed the holidays with family, friends, food, critters, and nature!

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Sunflower (naturalist) and Terwilliger (chinchilla) cuddling in their winter coats

Shortly after New Year’s, we flocked back to the Ranch, excited to start anew in 2016. The snowy winter weather blew in three new naturalists to join our amazing team of Outdoor Educators. Winter training started off with beautiful, sunny, California weather, but the sunshine did not last very long.  We were greeted with the biggest storm we have had here at Pathfinder in quite some time! Many inches of powdery snow fell on the Ranch.  Everyone put on our best snow attire and rushed outside to make snowmen, throw snowballs, and attempt a new science experiment by making ice cream with the fresh snow.  The beautiful harsh weather gave us plenty of time to revamp old lesson plans and activities, and to train our new Naturalists.


Hiking up the Nolina Trail with our new naturalists

We are all very excited to start see what El Nino has in store for us here at the Ranch and we are ready for the schools to attend this winter season so that they can experience the joy of learning in the beautiful outdoors!IMG_4401