My name is John L. Sanders, and my journey as mentor and outdoor science educator began while I was engaged in graduate research at UC Santa Cruz with a group of scientists studying the behavior and physiology of marine mammals. While employed as a Community Liaison for the UCSC Summer School Science Outreach Program, I designed and coordinated a month-long, live-in, summer science program for underrepresented middle school students from Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, and the assistance, support, and cooperation of community leaders, The Dean of the UC Summer Program, the Superintendent of Schools, and middle school science teachers, forty students were recruited for the Summer Science Program.
One day, while out on a whale watching excursion, my students and I witnessed 16 Orcas (killer whales) attacking a grey whale and her calf. The impact of what these science students were witnessing fist hand, was far greater than anything I could have achieved in the classroom. I was literally bombarded with questions for days afterward, which gave me an opening to discuss animal behavior, ocean resource allocation, migration cycles, ocean topography, predator/prey relationships, and a host of other topics. There was also a noticeable shift in the students’ attitudes toward reading, and the university library became a treasure house instead of a house of horror. The students’ passion for learning had been ignited by their outdoor experiences.
Since 2002, I’ve had the pleasure of guiding diverse groups of 5th and 6th grade students in the outdoors, as a Naturalist/Mentor with the Kern Environmental Education Program (Camp KEEP), in Cambria, California. Our staff designs and implements science curriculum to meet California State Science Standards, and our lessons cover topics in life and earth sciences including: photosynthesis, plant/animal adaptations, food webs, resource allocation, wind and waves, tides, plate tectonics, topography, intertidal ecology, estuary ecology, animal behavior, and astronomy. over the years, I have interacted with thousands of students from Kern, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo Counties, in an outdoor setting
In 2008, I was introduced to Jon Young’s principals of Coyote Mentoring, when I began working with Dave Wilson the founder of Coyote Regional Outdoor Adventures (Coyote Road School). In 2009, the marine science program was added to Coyote Road School’s summer camp schedule. It become a popular summer science program, drawing students from nearly all the coastal, and some inland communities. After 14 years of dedication to Coyote Road School, Dave Wilson has retired the program and has graciously gifted the school to me.
In January 2012, the Delphinus School of Natural History was born.
At Delphinus School of Natural History, we believe personal experience, fosters true appreciation for the natural world. True nature awareness is a deeply personal journey, achieved through a process that engages all of the senses. When we learn to recognize nature’s cycles, understand wildlife behavior, and interpret its many languages, we become naturalists, instead of casual observers. We believe that the natural resources of the central coast provide an ideal setting for developing an appreciation for, and personal relationship with the natural world.