Neighborhood Naturalists

Cultivating Local Naturalists

Upcoming Course:

Thursdays February 1, 8, & 15, 7-8:30 p.m., Los Altos Library

Optional Field Day: Saturday, February 24, 9:00-11:00 a.m., Sanborn County Park

New to the area or curious about the natural world in your own backyard? This free, educational course for adults will introduce participants to the natural history of the Santa Clara Valley, with a focus on the geology, geography, flora, and fauna of the area around the program location.

Sessions will include nature journaling, brief presentations, exploratory activities, and group discussions. 

Questions? Email [email protected]

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More About the Course 

Artwork diagraming the parts of a Magnolia branch
credit: Suhita Shirodkar, Fall 2020 participant

“What did the Santa Clara Valley look like 500 years ago?”

“What species might I find in my neighborhood that my friends around the globe might also see?”

“How do I get started in nature journaling?”

Santa Clara County Parks’ Neighborhood Naturalists program explores these questions (and many more) and introduces participants to natural history with an emphasis on local geology, native plants, and common wildlife. Offered each season, this free-of-cost program features expert guest speakers and weekly “homework” activities that include neighborhood walks, stargazing, and nature journaling. Park interpreters facilitate the sessions and cultivate a community of homegrown naturalists.

Participants receive a certificate for completing the course, and a custom pin for completing a service project that benefits their family, neighborhood, local plants, or wildlife. County Parks staff feel inspired and grateful for the passion and curiosity that participants have contributed to each course. Here’s a sample of recent projects:


Green Zine showing a butterfly

Green ‘Zine!

Participants Rebekah Bloyd & Mindy Saum created a 'zine that showcases flora and fauna of their Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood (San Jose). It aims to help readers discover their neighbors—beyond the human ones. 



Rose Erdstein's garden

Beginning a Native Garden

Rose Erdstein planted native plants with her 6- and 8-year-old granddaughters. In the process, she learned that her granddaughters are capable and dependable, and that “you’re never too old to learn something new.”​





A lizard laying underneath a car tire

150 Days of Shelter - Lessons in Life, Ecology, & Photography

When shelter-in-place started in 2020, Michael Hawk realized that he and many others wouldn't get outside as much, and he felt concerned that people might begin to lose touch with nature. He started a "backyard wildlife" group on Facebook and expanded his own personal goal to find 365 species in his yard within 365 days.



A homemade birdhouse

Homemade birdhouse

One participant wanted to show her family how birds build a home and how they care for their families. She hopes it will stoke her children’s interest in nature, and that it provided a sanctuary for birds that escaped local wildfires.




Audience Feedback:

  • “This course was bountiful! In our fraught times, this focus on our beautiful planet was especially welcome.”
  • “It was not only interesting in the moment, but it inspired me to get native plants when we redo our backyard, to explore flora and fauna, and the land. I downloaded some suggested nature apps and am excited to use them.”
  • ​“I am very happy this program exists. I think it is very important, helpful and fun.”

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