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Five Years of Chaparral Naturalists

A love and curiosity of nature brought together volunteers, educators, community leaders, and college students for the fifth Chaparral Naturalist Course. The Escondido Creek Conservancy has partnered with the California Chaparral Institute to host this unique approach to nature education at the beautiful Elfin Forest Interpretive Center. Over eight consecutive Saturday mornings, people from all walks of life come together to learn about local nature and all things chaparral—geology, fire, watersheds, and even environmental ethics.

Chaparral Naturalist students replicating plant structures at the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center

“You folks have produced such a well-organized and student-focused course—with intense content—that is a red-tailed hawk’s high orbital plane above any college class that I’ve ever taken!” says Bob Mihalik—retired educator, Conservancy volunteer, and now certified Chaparral Naturalist. The course sets itself apart by allowing students to experience nature for themselves as they build on a foundation of chaparral basics. It also aims to inspire a community of permanent nature advocates through fun and engaging facilitation techniques— which allows students to be a part of the teaching process.

There is never a dull moment, as the class quickly jumps from high-intensity lectures and discussions to engaging learning models, games, and outdoor exploration. While nature draws you in, it’s the connections and friendships that will inspire a lifetime of learning. If you’d like to be a part of the 2020 spring course, keep a lookout for applications in the fall!