Posts Tagged: science camp

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

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 ( or 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- 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!

End of the School Year

As our outdoor education season here at Pathfinder Ranch has drawn to a close, it’s hard not to reflect back on what we’ve done over the past year. How does one sum everything up and give thanks to all of the many people and other animals who made it all possible? We can try numbers:

4697 Amazing Students                                      17 Crazy Naturalists

643 Awesome Adult Chaperones                         16 Hard-working horses

232 Dedicated Teachers                                      37 Fun-filled Weeks

63 Fabulous Schools                                          1 Perfect Mountain Home

But that doesn’t really seem to capture what happens here at Pathfinder. Maybe if we think on some of the more memorable things we overheard students saying.…

“The nature takes care of us; that’s why we have to care.”

“Nature peeing is the best peeing.”

“At Pathfinder, I realized that nature is amusing, and interacting with it can be fun.”

“We should go back to riding horses everywhere instead of driving cars. It’s better for the environment…and more fun.”

“Wait…you guys live here?! This is a job?!”

“I think we could fix the whole world if everyone came here.”

“I thought that learning about plants would be kinda lame, but it’s actually really cool!”

“Nature can be peaceful.”

Closer, but still not quite the whole picture….

Students exploring our archaeological dig site on a beautiful day!

Students exploring our archaeological dig site on a beautiful day at Pathfinder Ranch!

There. Perhaps a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Have a great summer everyone! Summer camp has taken over the ranch, but the outdoor education staff will return in the fall!

Pathfinder Additions

Hello there! Just like the recent weather changes from hail flurries one week to highs in the 70s the next, Pathfinder Ranch has also been constantly changing with new additions and improvements happening every day.

One of the additions that we are most excited about is our brand new climbing wall structure and zip line! The climbing wall structure has been getting lots of use from our school groups. The students love trying the new routes and obstacles on the different walls. There are now three sides that have been named after places here in California that our Naturalists like to hike and/or rock climb– Taquitz, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite.

Here's a student climbing the Joshua Tree wall!

Here’s a student climbing the Joshua Tree wall!

Climbers going up two of the three sides on our new climbing wall structure!

Climbers going up two of the three sides on our new climbing wall structure!








Along with the climbing wall we have added two new zip lines! Although the zip lines are not ready for this spring’s school groups, we are planning on having them ready for Adventure Camp (June 23-28) this summer. Come and join us for six days of climbing, hiking, explorations, and other fun adventures. Don’t forget about our summer camp (spots are filling quickly so email or call our office for openings), and the fun we’ll be having with all of these amazing additions!

Our albino kingsnake, Cleopatra, is getting some quality attention from the staff.

Our albino kingsnake, Cleopatra, is getting some quality attention from the staff.


We also have a new living addition, Cleopatra (Albino Kingsnake), to our Nature Center.  She is doing well adjusting to her new home. She is still very young and is getting used to all of the love the Naturalists are giving her. We can’t get enough of little Cleo!


We have our fingers crossed that turkey chicks will hatch and add to our flock at the farm! Our mama turkey, Jenny, is currently sitting on the eggs she laid. The eggs are slightly larger than chicken eggs, are brown in color and have dark brown specks. Stay tuned via Facebook and our blog to see if the eggs hatch into cute baby turkey chicks!

Here's "Jenny," our female turkey who laid these eggs.

Here’s “Jenny,” our female turkey who laid these eggs.

So many turkey eggs...hopefully they hatch!

So many turkey eggs…hopefully they hatch!










Hope spring finds all of you well and excited for summer!

See you down the trail,

Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists

Betsy’s Farm & New Faces

Betsy’s Farm

Oh, the stories we hear working at the Ranch.  Stewart, our Facilities Director (a.k.a. Do-Everything-Extraordinaire), told me about the story of Betsy’s Farm.

Welcome to Betsy's Farm at Pathfinder Ranch!

Welcome to Betsy’s Farm at Pathfinder Ranch!


One of our wonderful donors, Deana Brix has a mother-in-law, Betsy, who is very prim and proper and doesn’t like to get dirty.  Betsy’s Farm at Pathfinder Ranch is actually named after her.  Their family joke was to name a place where kids can get their hands dirty after a family member who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty.  And boy, do the kids like to get their hands dirty at the farm.


The last two weeks we have had students explore and learn about the farm and our animals. I think their favorite thing was to chase the chickens around.  Usually our farm classes get to help feed and interact with the animals, particularly the pigs and goats. What a better way to learn more about where our food comes from than to give it a little scratch behind the ears!



Our new goats are getting acquainted to their new home.

Our new goats are getting acquainted to their new home.

New Farm Faces

A gracious member of our local Garner Valley community recently donated some new goats to Pathfinder Ranch.  We’re always excited to add new faces to our farm, but these goats are a pretty unique addition.  Both of our new goats are smaller in stature than what you’d imagine for a goat.  We have a new pygmy goat and a Nigerian Dwarf goat, Miss Daisy Mae and Blue Jasmine.



Daisy Mae is curious about our photographer, and all of her recent visitors!

Daisy Mae is curious about our photographer, and all of her recent visitors!


Miss Daisy Mae is a Pygmy goat.  Pygmy goats originated in the Cameroon Valley of West Africa. They were imported into the United States from European zoos in the 1950s for use in zoos as well as research animals. They were eventually acquired by private breeders and quickly gained popularity as pets and exhibition animals due to their good-natured personalities, friendliness and hardy constitution. (from



Blue Jasmine is curious about this cottonwood tree in the middle of her new home.

Blue Jasmine is inspecting this cottonwood tree in the middle of her new home.

Blue Jasmine is a Nigerian Dwarf goat. The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature dairy goat breed of West African ancestry. Originally brought to the United States on ships as food for large cats such as lions, the survivors originally lived in zoos. Nigerian Dwarf goats are popular as hobby goats due to their easy maintenance and small stature. (from





Both of our new goats are female adults about 5 years old, and at full size.  They are dairy goats, but we don’t plan on milking them, plus they no longer produce milk anyway.  They have already taken a liking to the students that have had the chance to visit with them.

Tune in for our next blog update where we’ll tell you about some of the exciting things going on at our garden and new hydroponics plant bed!

Thank You for a Wonderful Fall Season

Things were busy here at the Ranch before our season ended in the middle of December! We’ve had a lot of schools visit us over this past fall (about 20 in total). Thank you to all of our fall schools. What a great season! We’ve enjoyed the holidays with family and friends, cooking delicious foods, and building fires to keep us warm on cold nights. Even some of the animals at the Ranch have had the holiday spirit. Take a look!

Gravy, Our Fun Loving Turkey!

Gravy, Our Fun Loving Turkey!

Breezy decided she wanted to be a reindeer this holiday season!

Breezy decided she wanted to be a reindeer this holiday season!

Madonna, Our Spirited Alpine Goat!

Madonna, Our Spirited Alpine Goat!

Garret, Our Bearded Dragon!

Garret, Our Bearded Dragon!


















When they aren’t playing with the animals and teaching classes, the Naturalists at the Ranch have been hard at work this season designing new programs that can fit into our classes! One of the newest additions is an indoor planetarium that will soon be used during our Astronomy evening program! Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate the way we wish it would, so on rainy or cloudy nights we can potentially use this to help students see constellations and stars in our night sky!


We used a box fan to inflate it, and we cut a door on the opposite end to enter!

We used a box fan to inflate it, and we cut a door on the opposite end to enter!

We used black plastic sheeting and duct tape to secure the edges.

We used black plastic sheeting and duct tape to secure the edges.











Once inside we can project pictures of different constellations, stars and planets that we talk about during astronomy!

If you’re interested in building one of your own or seeing how it works, here is the website:


Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful time of year! Besides the current week of oddly warm temperatures, it has definitely gotten colder and colder here. So, why not warm up with this delicious hot chocolate recipe?!


Slow Cooker Deluxe Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate:

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 (6-oz.) pkg. (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)

2 quarts (8 cups) milk

1 tablespoon vanilla



Whipped cream

Miniature marshmallows

Miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Toffee bits

Cinnamon sticks

Peppermint candy sticks

Assorted liqueurs and flavored syrups

Chocolate cookie crumbs

Crushed peppermints



  • In 3 1/2 or 4-quart slow cooker, combine unsweetened chocolate, chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk; mix well.
  • Cover; cook on High setting for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or until chocolate is melted.
  • With wire whisk, stir in 2 cups of the milk until smooth. Gradually stir in remaining 6 cups milk and vanilla.
  • Cover; cook on High setting an additional 2 hours or until hot.
  • Just before serving, stir mixture again with wire whisk. Reduce heat setting to Low; have guests ladle hot chocolate into cups and top as desired.


Happy Holidays and See You Down the Trail,

                             Pathfinder Ranch Outdoor Education Staff

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!

Fall Harvest

Fall has finally arrived here at Pathfinder Ranch. The days are getting shorter, the air is getting crisper, and, most importantly, the pumpkins in our garden are ready to be harvested!

outdoor education, fall garden, composting

A ripening pumpkin

We have noticed a few changes in the garden in the past few weeks. Our summer vegetables like tomatoes, tomatillos, and zucchinis have slowed down while the cooler-temperature vegetables like potatoes and pumpkins are starting to ripen. We always look forward to these seasonal changes and the new things they bring to our garden!


Pathfinder Garden


Chickens helping with compost

We have quite a few pumpkins in our patch this year and we have started to think of creative ways to use them. One fun way to use a pumpkin is to make pumpkin soup in the shell! The recipe we like to use comes from Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
The recipe is as follows:

(if smaller or larger, adjust the amount of liquid)

Cut a lid off the top, scoop out the seeds and stringy parts, and rub the inside flesh with salt. Set the pumpkin on a large roasting pan.

(use less if dried)

Roast garlic cloves whole in oven or covered pan on low heat, until soft. Combine with liquid and spices in a large pot, mashing the cloves and heating carefully so as not to burn the milk. When the pumpkin is ready, fill with the liquid and replace the lid, putting a sheet of foil between the pumpkin and its top so it doesn’t fall in. (If you accidentally destroyed the lid while hollowing the pumpkin, just cover with foil.) Bake the filled pumpkin at 375° for 1-2 hours, depending on the thickness of your pumpkin. Occasionally open lid and check with a spoon, carefully scraping some inside flesh into the hot liquid. If the pumpkin collapses or if the flesh is stringy, remove liquid and flesh to a blender and puree. With luck, you can serve the soup in the pumpkin tureen.

New Happenings at the Ranch

We’re getting into the swing of the season and already, we have new and exciting things to report.

We have new helmets for horseback riding and for climbing.

idyllwild summer camp, outdoor education, equine program, science camp

Here are a few of our students out on trail with our new helmets.


Drifter and one of our happy campers about to go on trail.


Canyon prepping one of our students to climb the Alpine Tower.


One of our fantastic students modeling our new climbing helmets.

The Traverse Wall in the Rock and Rec. room got a make-over. 


Here is a before and after picture of our Traverse Wall.


Our Naturalists hard at work on the mural.


Willow and Sunshine painting a picture of an ocotillo plant on the traverse wall.

Meet Sir Simba and Breezy, the two horses who recently joined our Pathfinder family.


Sir Simba is 18 years old and comes to us from Midway College in Midway, KY. ( He is a registered Quarter Horse, and though his size might appear a bit intimidating, he’s quite the gentleman. Peppermints are his favorite treat so far.



 Breezy is a 10 year old registered Quarter Horse and is rather the opposite of Simba in appearances; she’s much shorter and more compact.  Breezy is fond of hats and playing in her water.