skip to main content
placeholder for top bar


An exciting program at the Shady Creek Outdoor School was created with you in mind.

You could be one of a select few of special students given the opportunity to come to Shady Creek Outdoor School for the Fall and/or Spring seasons (we would prefer both) as a Student Naturalist and you can experience, in a whole new way, the wonders of Shady Creek as a staff member. The program offers you the opportunity to gain useful life experiences and personal insight, all in the pristine surroundings at Shady Creek Outdoor School.

Student Naturalists will live, work and train with the staff during the program week (Monday through Friday); attend weekly natural history in-services and seminars on teaching techniques; meet one-on-one with the Student Naturalist Coordinator to establish goals and measure progress to maximize your Shady Creek experience; develop a project that will enhance the program and share your creation with students and staff. Additional work experience will be gained in maintenance, kitchen, and all areas at the program.
Embrace this learning experience and it will give you an abundance of skills and knowledge that will apply in life, work, and advanced education. These experiences will provide training in leadership, human resource management, professionalism, public speaking, teaching, and decision making, to name a few.

Personal growth is an important benefit of the program. You will learn to identify your own strengths as well as improve all other areas. You will gain focus to assist you on deciding where it is you want to go with your future, plus the incentive and motivation to attain your education or work goals.

Application for the 2024/2025 is here!

You will need:
  • 2 Letters of Recomendation (teacher, counselor, employer, etc - not friends and family)
  • High School Transcript


Mail in paper applications to: 
Shady Creek Outdoor School
C/O Student Nauralist Application
18601 Pathfinder Way
Nevada City, CA 95959

Student Naturalist FAQ’s

  • What would an average day look like as a student naturalist?

Every day looks a little different. As a student naturalist your average day would begin with a staff  meeting.There are 2 class periods a day. During each class period you may be assigned to observe a class, teach a class, make a snack, or work on a project. Between classes there is lunch and music. Additionally, you will be assigned to teach 1-2 meals a week, assist in the kitchen 1-2 times a week, and  work 2 evening programs a week.

  • Would it be possible to attend college either virtually or in person while being a student naturalist?

Yes! Many of our past and present student naturalists attend college virtually. Resources are available to you along with an assigned homework period each week. A homework period is a class period where you’re given the time to complete any assignments that may be due. You will likely need to do work in your off time as well. This means you might need to say no to trips to town or other plans with your fellow student naturalists. If you have a big project or exam and need more time built into your schedule for a week or two just let us know! 

Due to the workload of being a student naturalist we recommend taking 1-3 classes.

You can take classes in person but it is usually more demanding. It is recommended to take in person classes either before 11:00 or after 2:00. The closest college is Sierra College in Grass Valley. 

  • What would my duties be as a student naturalist when school is in session compared to weekends or breaks?

During the week, you’re expected to fill all the duties given to you on your schedule. The duties include teaching classes, kitchen duties, music, evening programs, and more. Don’t worry, you will go through training to learn how to complete these tasks. Breaks and weekends are your free time. You can come and go as you please. 

Please note that even during your off time, it is important to hold yourself to a professional expectation when around students and clients. There are groups that rent out certain parts of Shady Creek on weekends and breaks. When this happens we will set expectations. When groups rent out our facility there are opportunities to work for pay in the kitchen or custodial. We will guide you through that when the time comes.

  • What is the pay for kitchen shifts and how does scheduling work/what would I be doing during said shifts?

The kitchen will post opportunities to work on the bulletin in the kitchen, these are first come first serve and the hours will be listed on the sheet. The shifts can consist of anything from mopping and sweeping, food prep, dishwashing, etc. Most shifts take place on the weekends, separate from the school schedule.

The pay is noted on the application on Ed. 

  • What would the living situation be like while I was a student naturalist?

Student naturalists will be provided housing, most likely at Raptor Ridge. You will have a roommate(s) that you’ll share the space with. You will be able to use the bathrooms at raptor ridge or the staff bathrooms near domeland. We go over bathroom policies, quiet hours, etc during training. About 15-20 staff members share several common spaces (bathrooms, staff room, kitchen, etc.) These policies help keep the community running smoothly.
  • What is provided while being a student naturalist? 

Student naturalists are provided room and board. Meals are only provided when students receive meals. You are responsible for providing food for yourself on weekends, arrival day breakfasts, and departure day lunch and dinners. There are often leftovers from the week that folks can eat over the weekend. 

You will also need to provide your own bedding, toiletries, laundry detergent, and any furniture you want to make yourself comfortable. Any furniture you bring on to campus you are responsible for removing when you leave. A washer and dryer are available on site.
  • What would happen if I needed time off for any reason during the week?

Just let us know at least a week in advance (preferably 3-4). If an emergency comes up, let us know. We are here to help support you!

While you are here you will learn the best times to make appointments that work best with the schedule here.

  • Are there break periods where the student naturalists would be able to go visit home?

Of course! All of our staff are encouraged to visit their families on weekends or breaks. Thanksgiving and Spring break are both a week long and you are free to visit them whenever you please. Over the winter you will have about 3 weeks off to go home and be with family.

  • Would I be able to bring my pet?

Unfortunately, student naturalists are not allowed to keep pets on campus.

** Tip: It doesn’t hurt to apply if you are unsure! If you are offered a position, you can turn it down. But you don’t even have a shot if you don’t apply.


For additional information contact:
Bethany Thomas 'Echo'
Program Coordinator