The following is an overview of Naturalists at Large programming.Toward the end you will find information regarding “The Specifics ofWorking for NAL”, which will be helpful for those of you who will beinterviewing for an instructor position. Take notes to help youformulate any questions you might like answered during the interview.
Who do we serve ?Our education programsfor over three hundred ofCalifornias public andindependent schools haveintroduced thousands ofstudents to environmentsas diverse as the…
Pygmy Forest of Sonoma Catalina Island Giant Forest of Sequoia Sonoran Desert Colorado River
California has a variety of great Outdoor Classrooms from which to choose
Naturalists at Large has five program areas.1. Environmental Science / Natural History 2. Group Dynamics / Team Building / Leadership Development3. Outdoor Activity and Skills Instruction 4. Native & Pioneer History 5. Group Retreats
We work with eachschool every stepof the way toidentify theiroutdoor educationgoals and thentailor a program tomeet those specificneeds.
Naturalists at Largeprovides a complete outdoor curriculumfor primary through high school level students. We can accommodate trips for 15 students to over 200.
How long is a NAL trip? Trips rangefrom 1 to 6 days in duration.
Possible Topics and ThemesExploration of fresh water streams &tidepooling.Introduction to comparativeecosystems.Plant identification and their uses.Local wildlife observation and animalbehavior.
Understanding the dynamics of an ecosystem. Regional geology and watershed studies.Exploring the relationship between humans and their environment. Star studies and the night sky.Marine biology and earth’s oceans.
A focus of most allNaturalists at Largeprogramming is theinteraction of theindividual with thegroup. The needs ofboth must be metthrough thedevelopment ofcooperation,leadership andproblem solving skills.
The facilitation ofactivities, with theemphasis on ourinteraction with theenvironment andeach other,promotes awarenessof each individual’srole in making thegroup experience apositive one.
Retreats are a chanceto develop strongergroup cohesion andclass unity
Naturalists at Large draws it’s instructorsfrom all over the United States. These aremen and women with 4-year universitydegrees who have proven experienceworking with youth in the outdoors and inthe classroom.
With their high comfort and experience inthe outdoors, their passion for teaching,and a commitment to safety first, we havethe foundation for a fantastic experiencefor you and your students.
The following is a sample three-day schedule (for a rock climbingtrip) that has been used byseveral schools. Four-day andfive-day trips are more typicaland allow for a more in-depthexperience. (Remember that alltrips are custom designed andschedules will fit your needs)
(Day one)1:00 Arrive at Indian CoveCampground Bus greeters, Snack.Orientation to site,All Staff and Faculty meetingBreak into trail groups / small grouporientation and introductions. Set up camp /kitchen orientation3:30 Ground school – Intro to climbing6:30 Dinner7:30 Evening Program: Night awareness andtrust activities9:00 Students released to faculty
(Day two)7:15 Breakfast9:00 Groups A, B and C do journal activities,desert ecology hike, group initiatives. GroupsD, E and F climb12:00 Lunch by groups1:00 Groups D, E and F do journal activities,desert ecology hike, group initiatives. GroupsA,B and C climb4:30 Return to camp6:00 Dinner7:30 Evening Program:Night walk and star study9:00 Students released to faculty
(Day three)7:15 Breakfast7:30 Break down camp8:30 All gear staged and ready toload on bus9:00 Groups D, E and F hike, art activitiesand games. Groups A, B and C climb11:30 Lunch by trail groups12:00 Groups A, B and C hike, art activitiesand games. Groups D, E and F climb2:30 Return to camp for debrief3:00 Load gear on bus3:30 School departs
You begin your NAL experience by attending a 3-4day New Staff Training (PAID). This trainingincludes a day of policy/procedures/paperwork/payroll/etc.. A day of playing “student” while ourveteran staff takes you out on a NAL trail day.Another day will consist of developing andimplementing your own NAL trail day in cooperationwith the other New Staff in your training group.There’s always a great deal of group process andteam building activities intermixed withenvironmental concepts and games. Each night we willfocus on evening program activities such asastronomy concepts, night hike games, and campfireprograms. With this training you are qualified towork many of our trips.
In order to work Colorado River trips andCatalina Island trips you must attend a SiteTraining. In order to work in other Roles at NALyou must attend a Specialty Training. We offertraining for Ropes Courses, Commissary Director(cooking), Program Coordinator, Anchor Training(rock climbing), and Snorkel/Kayak Instructor.Specialty Trainings and Site Trainings are Non-Paid but include room and board. They are agreat way to increase your skills and knowledgebase, and is our chance of evaluating you for newroles within the company.
As an Instructor, you will be responsible for 9 to14 students within your trail group. You will bethe only NAL instructor with your group.You will always be accompanied by one adultrepresentative from the school.You will work with your trail group from day oneto the end of the program, with occasional optionblocks where you might work with other studentswithin the class.You will be supported by other NAL staff duringspecialty activities, such as rock climbing, ropescourse, snorkeling, and kayaking.
Your working hours are typically from 8:30 or9:00 AM to 4:30 or 5:00 PM each day, withevening blocks from 7:30 to 9:00 PM. (Programschedules do vary and you will occasionally work ameal time with your trail group).You are not responsible for the night timesupervision of students. (but you are expected toremain on site).You are initially paid at a day rate of $89.30 perday. All of our employees start as Level 1instructors. You will move up the pay scale basedon total number of field days with NAL. Our payscale has five levels.
Even though trips range from 1 to 6 days induration, 90% of our trips are 3-5 days long for thestudents. All trips have a Staff Day (Paid) whichtypically begins at 10:00 AM the day prior to thestudents arrival. Some trips have a 2-day staff day.Staff day is spent previewing all aspects of the tripat hand. As a staff, you will preview the tripschedule, hike trails, preview specific games andactivities, and each instructor will then create their“game plan”. This plan, using the pre-arrangedschedule, focuses on sequencing and progression forthe instructors specific trail group. NAL sets asolid framework for which an instructor can buildupon, drawing on their vast “bag of tricks”.
NAL seasons are typically 10 to 14 weeks long, withbetween 7-14 trips on any given week. Big weeksmay have as many as 700 students in the field, with80-90 staff providing outstanding outdoorexperiences, at a variety of diverse sites.The traveling naturalist is the key to this type ofcompany model. Our instructors do move site tosite. With one day to several days off betweenprograms, instructors often have time to recreateor decompress in a wide range of great places. Thisis the time when staff band together to camp, play,or travel together as they prepare for their nextprogram. NAL provides food and housing duringprogram, but instructors must manage theirpersonal logistics in between trips.
This gypsy lifestyle can be intimidating for first timeemployees, but with 25 years of operation, NAL hasnoticed how quickly most new staff adapt to theprocess. Often, this wandering throughout California,is a main benefit to a Naturalists at Largeexperience.Most new staff will work a full NAL season in the roleof Trail Instructor / Nattie. Upon returning for asecond season and beyond, staff take on new rolesand new sites. Within 3 or 4 seasons, veteran staffare working more weeks, longer trips, at a higher payrate, and in a variety of roles. Trail group instructor,ropes instructor, commissary (cooking), and evenmanaging trips as the Program Coordinator all areroles an individual may have in a single season.
Naturalists at Large has some flexibility inschedules for staff. We offer a few differentstarting dates and ending dates each season. Thekey to getting scheduled for trips is beingavailable for the biggest weeks, when we need tobe at full strength with everyone working. If aperson has specific needs, such as programlocations or certain weeks off due to priorcommitments, we can sometimes/often work withthem to meet their needs and ours. But for themost work available, an instructor with highflexibility will always be easier to schedule and tokeep working.
Fall Season – Begins Mid-August or Septemberand finishes end of October or mid-November Phone Interviews begin in MaySpring Season – Begins mid-March or April andfinishes end of May or mid-June Phone Interviews begin mid-January
With all this said, an instructor will spend 90% of their program time, working with students, teaching and leading in 3 program areas.1. Natural History/Environmental Science – From the “hands on” lessons teaching science concepts to the more informal “walk and talks” and using teachable moments.2. Group Process – From the “we are in this together, how do we make it work?” to the facilitated team building/initiatives/problem solving activities that focus on cooperative and leadership skills.3. Outdoor Skills – From the “How to” of setting up a tent, dressing properly for the day, to the introduction of basic skills for rock climbing, backpacking, snorkeling, and other specialty activities.
Requirements for New Naturalists 1. Experience working with youth in an outdoor setting. 2. Significant personal outdoor experience. 3. Enthusiastic self-starter capable of working with minimal supervision. 4. Demonstrated leadership / facilitator skills. 5. University level academic background in environmental education, the natural sciences, outdoor recreation or related field. 6. Familiarity with academic outdoor programs is desirable. 7. Current Wilderness First Aid and CPR. (Wilderness First Responder training is desirable.) On-Line Certifications are not acceptable. 8. Satisfactory response from Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation California Livescan
So…Do you get what we do? Can you do it? And…do you still want to do it? If so, let’s get you interviewed! (remember to have your list of questions for your interview)