- Author: Sarah Angulo
The days grow shorter and the temperatures are gradually getting cooler – fall is approaching, and that means it's time for school to start! Teachers are getting their classrooms ready and students are getting fresh supplies to head back to school. For our fall California Naturalist courses, heading into the classroom has a whole different meaning.
The classroom sessions are just a piece of the whole learning experience in a UC California Naturalist course. Take it from this West Valley College certified Naturalist, who explained, “The content presented in class before the field trip helped students understand what they were getting ready to study during our week long trip. The content during the trip helped us expand on the foundation we were left with before the trip. Interacting with others helped me out by talking to people who have visited the areas that we were in before the trip.”
The combination of classroom lectures, field trips, volunteer projects, class citizen science projects, use of iNaturalist, and interacting with guest speakers and fellow students is a unique learning experience that many naturalists describe as “transformational.” This fall, you can join the community of 4,000 people across the state who have become certified naturalists. With California's wonderful diversity in terms of both its nature and its people, there's a course that's right for everyone. We have courses taking place in the Lake Tahoe Basin, along the banks of the American River, up in the redwood forest, amidst the Coast Range's golden hills, adjacent to a National Seashore, in the coastal chaparral, right in the middle of urban space, and more! Find a fall course near you here.
Every teacher undergoes training before entering the indoor or outdoor classroom, and our California Naturalist instructors are no exception. This fall, instructors from potential new course locations have an opportunity to sign up for our instructor training. Taking place at Elkus Ranch November 13 & 14, this two day training includes a special opportunity for both new and continuing instructors.
November 13 is an introduction for organizations who have completed a partner interest form and have initiated plans together with the California Naturalist Program Team to offer the course to their community, volunteers, or staff. The workshop is one required step in the application process to partner with the program. Additional instructor team members are welcome to attend, as well as current instructors who have not undergone the instructor training in 3 or more years to receive updated information on administrative processes.
November 14 is a UCANR Fire Education Workshop- an advanced training professional development opportunity specifically for Project Learning Tree (PLT) instructors working with 4-H or CalNat to enhance their content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and use of technology in the design and delivery of fire education programs in California. The workshop will expose participants to all three elements of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge and include opening and closing presentations providing additional context to the challenges of fire education in California and the role that PLT, 4-H, and the California Naturalist Program play in addressing them. The overarching goal of the workshop is to enhance the capacity of the instructors to deliver high quality programming to their respective audiences.
This training is geared for existing PLT instructors (educators and facilitators) from the California Naturalist program and 4-H program who have or plan to integrate a PLT workshop into their program, CalNat instructors attending the ongoing Northern California Instructor Training, and other interested 4-H participants. Those not currently affiliated with the PLT, CalNat, or 4-H may be considered if space is available.
- Author: Eliot Freutel
Our day started brisk and damp as the sun rolled out behind a curtain of central coast fog. We gathered in the grey light with our morning tea, dressed in warm clothes as the steam from our breath billowed out in front of laughter and conversation on the subject of tide pool safety and ecology.
What followed was a deep dive (pun intended) into the intertidal zone of our California coast.
Most of these organisms move very slow, if at all. To observe them you need a lot of patience, a keen eye and steady footing. Perfectly adapted to this dynamic environment, these organisms often mimic their surroundings. By asking yourself “how does this animal move, eat, and avoid predation?” their biology starts to demystify, and their secrets are revealed.
More than 30 observing naturalists helped to spot, I.D. and record the location of over 40 tide pool species to iNaturalist. Monitoring our tide pool diversity is crucial to its long-term preservation: In 2013, Sea Star wasting disease hit hard along our coast and decimated populations from Vancouver, B.C. down to Baja California. This weekend's mini BioBlitz saw healthy specimens in relatively healthy numbers and cataloged the recovery of at least 3 species of sea star.
The California Naturalist 2019 Regional Rendezvous was a meeting of over 80 naturalists, state-wide staff, and program partners. These passionate observers from across the state visited Camp Ocean Pines (a CalNat course partner) in Cambria for a 3-day immersive and educational experience, complete with field trips, workshops, guest speakers and more. 44 observers made 289 observations of 112 species on iNaturalist.
- Author: Gregory Ira
“Transformational—the class gave me tools to transform intent to application, especially in areas where I've been unsure how best to be effective.”
“I am still aglow with my “new eyes” that can see so much more clearer with a naturalist lens.”
- California Naturalist Course Participant Feedback
Defining transformative learning and identifying elements that contribute to it is complex. There are formal educational theories (developed by Jack Mezirow1 and others) and popular usage of the term transformational experiences. Central to most of these definitions are learning experiences that challenge our existing beliefs, perspectives, and behaviors and force us to reshape our understanding of the world. Clearly, this type of learning doesn't occur often and isn't something that a program can guarantee. However, I believe it is something that all California Naturalist instructors recognize and actively work toward.
While there is no single recipe for creating transformative learning experiences, there are some recognized elements - some within our control and others not. Four that I think hold the most promise are challenging field experiences, discrepant events, reflection through journaling, and capstone projects. Challenging field experiences take us out of our comfort zone, help us break old habits, and allow us to recognize new capabilities. Discrepant events challenge our existing beliefs by producing outcomes that are unexpected. Reflection gives us time to process, synthesize, and ultimately communicate what we've learned. Finally, capstone projects reinforce our ability to combine new knowledge and beliefs into action.
We look forward to hearing your own stories, experiences and practices that have resulted in seeing and walking through the world with “new eyes.” California Naturalist is in the process of collecting stories around the state of transformative learning experiences that were catalyzed by participation in a CalNat course. Click on this link to share your story with our naturalist community.
1 For more info on transformative learning theory see Mezirow, J. (1997). "Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice." New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 74, 5–12. Or this comprehensive overview.
This year's Regional Rendezvous (August 16-18) will host an abundance of learning opportunities for our CalNat participants. Aside from the amazing activities and adventures (such as kayaking, birding, historic building and nature preserve visits, traditional tool use workshop, etc.), Rendezvous participants will learn from our lightning talks, welcome speakers, a professional natural resources panel, and our plenary speaker.
Lightning Talks: For us to maintain a cohesive community across the entire state, it is important to know what other Naturalists have been up to in their areas. Lightning Talks are a great way to get an update on research or ongoing restoration projects, to present a particularly engaging Capstone Project, or to highlight the work being done by various organizations and programs. Our Naturalists are encouraged to contribute by submitting their work for a Lightning Talk. Each presentation will be about five minutes long with time allotted at the end for a few questions.
Don Pierce, Jr., Salinian Tribe elder, will welcome us to his ancestral lands. Born and raised in the mountains above Morro Bay he comes from a long line of ancestors traditionally located north of the Chumash. He grew up in the modern world, but learned native ways from his parents and extended family. Among many positions he holds, Mr. Pierce is presently the Salinan Chairman, Public Relations lead, Education lead, MBMM Board of trustee's, Native American liason for the Maritime museum and Navigators circle.
Dr. Katherine Soule, University of California Cooperative Extension Director and Youth, Families, & Communities Advisor of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties will welcome us to the county. Dr. Soule leads an award-winning multicultural, bilingual team who truly understand the culture, needs, and strengths of the people in the communities where they work. Her programs integrate health education with community engagement, improving equity for marginalized populations.
Natural Resource Expert Speaker Panel:
We have four guest speakers at this year's Regional Rendezvous whose amazing work embodies and often supports our collective environmental missions.
Heather Holm is the Interpretive Planning and Program Section Manager for California State Parks Interpretation and Education Division coordinating statewide interpretive projects and programming. One of her active projects is PORTS – Parks On-line Resources for Teachers and Students (a distance learning program covering subjects from kelp forests to California's Missions). Her work has brought high quality virtual field trips highlighting California's unique ecology and deep history to students across the world. Heather has 19 years of experience in interpretation, having worked in various positions in California State Parks and other non-profit museums and archives.
Rocio Lozano-Knowlton is the Director of MERITO (Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans) Foundation. A Latin American oceanographer and an environmental/science educator, her impressive and eclectic experience focuses on ocean research and sustainable tourism and has reached and supported millions of teachers, students, and community members as she advocates for global environmental justice, and racial equality in the environmental field in USA.
Organization's Mission: To enhance ocean and climate science literacy among multicultural communities while supporting marine research and conservation in order to promote healthy ocean ecosystems and inspire the next generation of ocean professionals.
Scot Pipkin is the Director of Education for the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Dating back to the mid 1920's, this site highlights California native plants and offers educational courses and community events year-round. Scot has spent the better part of two decades as an outdoor/environmental educator in California, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. He has worked with populations ranging from preschool to retirement, always with the objective of having participants make their own discoveries about the natural wonders that surround them.
Organization's Mission: To conserve California native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and the planet.
Organization's Mission: Through voluntary and collaborative measures, The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County works to permanently protect and enhance lands having important scenic, agricultural, habitat and cultural values for the benefit of people and wildlife.
Our wonderful panel moderators are Chris Cameron: former Director of and lead California Naturalist instructor for Camp Ocean Pines and Michelle Roest: Interpretive Planner and lead California Naturalist instructor for the Cuesta College CalNat course.
We are so excited to share and learn from these amazing speakers. Register soon! Space is limited!
See you at the Rendezvous!
- Author: Sarah Angulo
The smell of the ocean, the cool, salty breeze, sandy toes and plenty of sunshine – many of us lucky Californians have special memories spending time at our central coast. While enjoying the company of friends and family, the stunning backdrop instantly puts us at ease, and gives us some perspective. However, a naturalist's mind has a hard time quieting down, as even a moment thinking about the landscape of the central coast leads to endless questions about how such a beautiful place came to be here today!
The coastal geology of California reflects its culture: it's modern, it's active, it's exciting, and it's got a lot going on. The dramatic cliffs and hills rising straight out of the ocean are a result of the Pacific and North American plate boundary. Subduction created the iconic mountains and accreted different rock types onto California. Now, as the plate boundary moves the shrinking Juan de Fuca plate north, the plates slide past each other along at this point along the coast, bringing even more rock types from Southern California northward. These diverse rock types contribute to a diverse plant landscape.
Rock and soil type combined with the Mediterranean climate characterize the landscape with vegetation types dominated by some quintessential Californian plants, including blue oak, coast live oak, valley oak, redwood, and Monterey pine. An incredible array of vernal pool, estuary, intertidal, bay, dune, forest, stream, riparian, chaparral, coastal sage scrub, and grassland habitats attract an equally diverse number of animal species to live in this area of California.
At the beaches, the uniquely adapted animals of the tide pools wait to be discovered, shorebirds cruise along the sand, and marine mammals can be viewed at a safe distance. In the freshwater streams that meet the ocean, macroinvertebrates feed the fish and birds who inhabit the riparian ecosystems. Still more bird species fly above the elusive bobcat, coyote, and mountain lion of the oak woodland habitats
For our California Naturalists and friends, this landscape offers so many opportunities to learn and explore. That's why program staff picked the central coast as the location of this year's annual Regional Rendezvous! What's a Regional Rendezvous? An annual event for California Naturalists and other nature-loving adults to re-energize, share our collective passion, learn together about a specific bioregion, and make fun memories on high quality, professionally led adventures. No experience, credentials, or degrees needed, just a love of the natural world and a desire to learn more about it. Let experienced, knowledgeable, and local naturalists show you the places they call home in the surrounding Cambria area. Rendezvous attendees have an opportunity to choose one of the nine offered field trips/workshops to engage in the nature found in this unique part of California. Learn more about the field trip offerings and how to register for the Rendezvous!