C alaveras Big Trees State Park in June graduated 25 students from its California Naturalist Program.

Students completed 40 hours of class time, immersing themselves in the geology, hydrology, wildlife, forests, climate and ecology of California with a focus on the Sierra Nevada. Lessons included readings, hands-on activities and field trips throughout the park.

In addition to the science curriculum, students completed a team citizen science project, honed their observation skills using the iNaturalist app, and submitted individual capstone projects.

Local residents Wendy Harrison and Dexter Hardcastle led the course, bringing in professors and experts for each content area. The Calaveras Big Trees Association was a key sponsor of the program, working in partnership with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

The graduates are now part of a larger, growing community of California Naturalists, who continue to learn about and protect the unique and precious natural resources and public lands. Volunteerism is a key focus of all California Naturalists, and the new graduates will share the new knowledge of nature at Big Trees and throughout California.

“My nature eyes got so much better,” said graduate George Leong.

For information about future classes at Calaveras Big Trees, go online to bigtrees.org. For general information about the California Naturalist Program, go online to calnat.ucanr.edu.