A typical Monday at Outdoor school can include a lot of surprised faces. Surprised that the food is so good, surprised that the cabins are warm, surprised that they’re having such a good time within minutes of stepping off the bus. However, something that can come just as shocking to the 5th and 6th grade students as well as the high school counselors is that yes, naturalists can be famous, too! Now, not necessarily red-carpet glitz-and-glam fame (although Ms. Frizzle from Magic School Bus is starring in a trail group at Loma Mar this year), but famous nonetheless.
Our Naturalists choose a “Famous Naturalist” for many reasons. The simplest of these being that the kids know their group as an entity. For example: 8 boys, 8 girls, 2 counselors and their Naturalist vs. the Dr. Seuss Trail group. The extended explanation is that Famous Naturalists are designed to demonstrate to students that environmental advocates can be found in different venues. Being a naturalist can encourage students to reach for something beyond Outdoor School as just a week of fun in the forest. Naturalists can be artists, photographers, authors, outdoor guide specialists, explorers and more. When students learn about their Famous Naturalist, our hope is that they go home with a sense of empowerment that they, too, can be a naturalist for many years to come and inspire others to do the same.
Take Granite’s trail group at our Sempervirens site. He has chosen Andy Goldsworthy as his Famous Naturalist for the 2013-2014 school year. Andy Goldsworthy is a Scottish sculptor, photographer, and environmentalist who makes art with materials that he finds outside. His goal is to work with nature as a whole. If that means that his pieces change color or decay along the way, so be it. When Granite takes his group on hikes, they make their own sculptures, designs, and other art forms out of the anything found in the forest. “I chose Andy Goldsworthy because I am an artist, and I like doing things outside of the studio. The kids get a chance to touch and feel nature, rather than just look at it.”
At Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools, our staff strive to make themselves better stewards of the earth just as we try to inspire children to do the same. Having Famous Naturalists that guide our trail groups is just another way we connect with students, empowering them to go home and make positive changes in their communities and the world.