Thinking Like a Naturalist

General Description:

“You have to learn it from the hills and the ants and and the weeds and things like that. They do the teaching around here.” Byrd Baylor

Rise early to catch the dawn chorus. Crouch low to watch an ant slip underground. Question the clear night sky. Read the stories of river rocks. Stumble on questions and fall into answers. In one week, learn to see more, be more curious, and have more fun in nature than ever before. Through journaling techniques, scientific inquiry, and field study we will unlock the methods that naturalists use to explore the world and train our minds to be more curious. We’ll step beyond just looking; our observations and will lead to discovery in every tree, bird, cloud, or insect. Field journaling, field science methods, , and exploration will provide the foundation of our work and will enable us to see more, remember what we saw, and make meaning of our experiences. We will add to our naturalist toolkits through simple drawing techniques and writing exercises. Evenings spent reflecting on the words and wisdom of inspiring naturalists will help us to create a community of wonderers and wanderers.

Enter ready to be amazed and leave ready to dive into the world and watch it open before you.

Class Schedule

Plan to arrive at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus on Sunday. We will get acquainted that evening, but the class will begin at 7:30 AM on Monday. The week's activities will be flexible to take advantage of some of the best viewing opportunities but in general each day will be spent in the field, with time to relax at lunch, and returning to the field campus by dinner. Throughout the week we will learn tricks and techniques to help sketch birds, flowers and more both in the field and in evening workshops. Walks will be generally short but could range up to 3 miles over moderately rough terrain. The class will end in the afternoon of Friday.

Supplies and Other Useful Items

Drawing Equipment

To see a list of equipment go to Jack's web site by clicking suggested equipment.

Field gear

  • binoculars
  • spotting scope (optional)
  • hand lens
  • bug boxes or small jars (optional)
  • butterfly net and pond dip net (optional)
  • field guides
  • small millimeter/inches ruler
  • compas/thermometer zipper pull/keychain fob (available at REI)
  • small retractable flexible measuring tape (available at sewing stores)
  • bug box with built in magnifier
  • shoulder bag for naturalist tool kit (also available for sale during the class)
  • headlamp

Camping gear


Days are warm, even hot, while evenings are quite cold (close to freezing). Clothing that can be layered for variable weather conditions is best. T-shirts and shorts are often perfect during the day, with a wind jacket or raincoat as backup. Long pants, warmer shirts and sweaters with a coat are necessary in the evening. Comfortable shoes, sun hat, wool hat and gloves are important. Old sneakers or rubber boots and a swimsuit may come in handy while visiting marshes. Miscellaneous: Day pack, sunscreen, insect repellent, raingear, alarm clock, water bottles, hat etc.


  • day pack
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellant
  • alarm clock
  • water bottles
  • plastic containers for packed lunches


  • The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. John Muir Laws. Heyday Books. A richly illustrated guide to a full range of Sierra plants, animals, fungi, and more.
    Order at HeyDay Books

For carpool or additional information, email

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