Kestrel's Musings

Rambles and explorations from this perspective.

Learning in the Field

field  (fld)n.

  • A broad, level, open expanse of land.
  • A meadow: a field of buttercups.
  • A cultivated expanse of land, especially one devoted to a particular crop: a field of corn.
  • A portion of land or a geologic formation containing a specified natural resource.
  • A wide unbroken expanse, as of ice.

The idea of “the field,” I suspect, conjures up as many different ideas as there are experiences out there. A farm field comes to mind. My life was forever changed by the experiences I had learning in the field while obtaining my Environmental Studies (emphasis on Natural History) degree, in particular Natural History Field Quarter.

I have been an educator in California since 1997, many of those years spent teaching students and training other teachers and high school students out in the field. I have been a National Park Service Ranger Naturalist at Yosemite since 2002. I have seen many people transformed by their experiences in the field. Field based education has been challenged on some fronts or at least marginalized by other priorities. I am not going to get into the details here. Dig a little and you will find that the powers that be continue to find that hands on and field based learning has the edge over everything else for inspired learning and instilling a love for learning. (Why our institutional industrialized style of learning perseveres I wonder?)

This past week I dived back into my own field based learning by participating in another class at San Francisco State’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus. It was awesome!

Carman Valley


Nashville Warbler and Fox Sparrow songs.

This was their Bird Identification by Song class. Last summer I participated in Birds of the Sierra Nevada and a new Fly Fishing class. I look forward to their bat class, insect class, flower course, butterflies… I highly recommend you check them out and support field based learning where ever you are. Participate people! Being out in the field involves mind and body as well as spirit. To learn by doing and being out in what remains of our more natural “fields” not only increases knowledge but inspires too. A connection to place is nurtured and a sense of responsibility instilled. I am blessed that I have learned how to appreciate my world and that a love for learning has been instilled in me. I thank UC Santa Cruz’s Environmental Studies program and Natural History Field Quarter for that. I will continue to learn out in the field and pay forward all my inspirations with those who want to go with me.


Sierra Valley

This week I begin a volunteer stint with Yosemite’s MAPS program banding song birds in their breeding habitat. Stay tuned for details on that field experience!


Author: Kestrel

Kestrel identifies as a naturalist, Yosemite Interpreter, guide, outdoor educator, science teacher, friend, music lover, auntie extraordinaire, adventurer for birds, and fellow sojourner on this big blue marble. Out there she strives to live life most generously and satisfyingly. Here she endeavors to share what rolls around the heart and grey matter...

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