Becoming a naturalist through observing and asking questions


Pepperwood and the Santa Rosa Junior College partner to offer a two-semester Bio 85 – Natural History of Pepperwood course that certifies participants as UC California Naturalists. Students have the option to submit an article for the Pepperwood Field Notes Blog as part of the course. The following is a student-submitted article.

Becoming a Naturalist through Observing and Asking Questions

srjc-jennifer-roberts-3By Jennifer Roberts, Fall 2016 Bio 85 participant

Have you been hiking and seen an interesting rock, and wondered what it’s made of? What about those small succulent plants on the trail—are they native to California? Have you been looking for a way to learn how to better observe and connect with your environment? Pepperwood and the Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) just might have a perfect option for you!

The Natural History of the Pepperwood course is offered each semester and was created to help budding naturalists examine their environment. This course is a partnership between Pepperwood and the SRJC. It brings students out to the Pepperwood’s 3,200 acre scientific preserve on Saturday mornings where they learn about all aspects of natural processes through the lens of this special part of the California landscape. On Thursday evenings, class meets at the SRJC where each week a different instructor lectures on their area of natural expertise. Completion of both semesters of this course satisfies the requirement to be certified as a UC California Naturalist

srjc-jennifer-roberts-1Each week a different topic is explored. Everything from soils, geology, plants, and animals, to weather, climate, history and even sketching in nature is covered. This course is for anyone wanting to learn more about the outdoor environment no matter what level of experience one has. By training, I am an environmental educator with a focus in horticulture but everyday is a new opportunity to learn how to better observe the natural world. I am able to make connections with what I already know about plants to what I am learning about geology and weather patterns. I am pleasantly surprised by how my ability to examine and observe my surroundings has improved in just a few classes.

The first step to becoming a good naturalist is observing. The second step is learning the practice of taking good notes while in the field (that you can later understand) while additionally making sketches and contour drawings, and taking photos. Taking good notes comes from using all five senses. You can practice by smelling the California bay laurels, seeing a brown butterfly go by, touching a rock to determine its kind, tasting a ripe purple fig fresh off the large tree at McCann Homestead, and listening to the ravens and hawks squawk and screech mid air.

srjc-jennifer-roberts-2Once you are done in the field for the day, you are not done with your experience. Next you translate these thoughts and observations into a longer form journal where you tell the story of your time out in the field. These journal entries become a book filled with photos, sketches and thoughts. This process helps you to recall what you saw that day, make connections to previous experiences, make comparisons, and finally ask questions. What do you still wonder about? Where have I seen this plant before? Why are these rocks of this kind only found on this ridgeline? The questions can go on and on, but so does the learning.

The spring semester of The Natural History of Pepperwood focuses on the living aspects of the ecosystem—plants, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. This class begins the week after spring break in late March, 2017. Or join in for the class next September that will focus on the geologic, hydrologic, and cultural aspects of Pepperwood.

Learn more about this course or sign up at the SRJC website.

Or click here to learn more about the UC California Naturalist program.



Post a comment

Traducir »