Delphinus School of Natural History was founded in 2012, but my journey as mentor and outdoor science educator began while I was engaged in graduate research at UC Santa Cruz studying the behavior and physiology of marine mammals. As a Community Liaison for the UCSC Summer School Science Outreach Program, I collaborated in designed and coordination of a month-long, summer science program, for forty underrepresented middle school students from Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.
While out on a whale watching excursion, in Monterey Bay, my students and I witnessed 16 Orcas (killer whales) attacking a Gray whale and her calf. The impact of what these 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 science, earth science and indigenous cultural history. Over the years, I have mentored hundreds 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, while working with Dave Wilson’s Coyote Regional Outdoor Adventures (Coyote Road School). In 2009, a marine science program was added to Coyote Road School’s summer camp schedule. It become a popular addition, drawing students from coastal, and 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.
At Delphinus School of Natural History, we believe that rich natural resources of the central coast provide an ideal setting for “place-based” nature awareness, and for developing an appreciation for, and personal relationship with the natural world.