Certified by the California Department of Education
The Los Angeles County Outdoor Science School is regularly certified by the California Department of Education to provide outdoor science field study programs, and is a member in good standing of the California Outdoor School Administrators (COSA).
Kathleen Mitchell, Lead Teacher
Kathleen Mitchell has been the Outdoor Science School Lead Teacher for 31 years. After earning a BA in psychology at UC Davis, she worked for three years as a naturalist for an Outdoor Education Program in Texas. Back in California, Kathleen worked for both the state and national park system and earned a teaching credential from CSU Sacramento. Kathleen also has a master’s degree in Environmental Education from California State University, San Bernardino. In addition to her degrees and credential, she has extensive course work in various sciences. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder, and a California Naturalist and a California Naturalist Instructor (a program from the University of California). For the past two summers, Kathleen taught a California Naturalist class for a group organized by the Forest Service for the San Gabriel Mountain area.
RT Hawke, Lead Naturalist Instructor
RT Hawke keeps track of our plants and rocks here at Wrightwood, along with being the Lead Naturalist Instructor. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Natural History. RT has taught for the L.A. County Outdoor Science School for 31 years. He has also taught for programs in Santa Clara and Monterey counties, National Audubon’s Camp in the Rockies, and Victor Valley College. RT loves plants, birds, rocks, traveling and playing bridge.
Rachel Bateson, Naturalist Instructor
Rachel Bateson grew up in the foothills near Wrightwood. In sixth grade, she attended outdoor science school right here at the Wrightwood site. She earned her B.S. in Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. Rachel has spent some time on a ranch in the beautiful Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming as a hiking guide and naturalist while running a kid’s program. She has also been an outdoor science school instructor in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Recently, she completed a course to become a certified California Naturalist. During her free time, Rachel loves to botanize, collect rocks, go camping and backpacking, read, play with dogs and horses, and learn. This year is Rachel’s third year working at the Wrightwood site and she is still so happy and excited to be here.
Bobby Pfeiffer, Naturalist Instructor
Bobby Pfeiffer is a converted East coaster. He spent his first 23 years in New Jersey biking, skiing, and kayaking. His introduction to outdoor education came as a sixth grader when he attended Stokes Outdoor School, the same program he returned to in high school as a cabin leader. Bobby graduated from Rutgers University in 2011 with a B.S. in Animal Science with a focus on pre-veterinary medicine. Upon graduation he spent two years working in the education department of Adventure Aquarium, teaching and learning about all types of sharks, fishes, and marine invertebrates.
Craving the adventure offered by the West Coast he moved to Catalina Island in 2014, where he worked as a naturalist for the Catalina Island Conservancy. During the previous three summers Bobby has worked whale watching and guiding kayak tours on Orcas Island, off the Washington coast. This is Bobby’s fourth year in Southern California Outdoor Education, his third (of hopefully many) working at LA County Outdoor Science School. In his free time, he enjoys photography, traveling, and all manner of adventure. He is thrilled to be back in Southern California in such an interesting and diverse area.
Chaz Topacio, Naturalist Instructor
Chaz was born in the Midwest but was not destined to stay. His wanderlust took him to the woods and water as he was constantly exploring to observe the creatures he could find under rocks and logs. He studied geology at St. Norbert College in De Pere,Wisconsin and underwent various field studies taking place in Arizona, Oregon, and Montana before graduating with a Bachelor of Science in 2014. Having a great passion for teaching, he started his career as a field station educator, teaching marine ecology for Chincoteague Bay Field Station in Wallops Island, Virginia. After two years of getting his feet wet in the realm of education (pun intended), he switched coasts to continue his passion as a naturalist with Los Angeles County Outdoor Science School. His free time is often spent hiking, swimming, playing Frisbee, and rocking some sweet tunes on his guitar.
Nina Vuoso, Naturalist Instructor
Nina was born and raised in the South Bay of Los Angeles, and spent her childhood exploring tide pools, playing in the garden, and catching California fence lizards. Having earned a B.S. in Nutritional Biochemistry from UC Davis in 2011, Nina chose to blend her passions of promoting science literacy and nutrition; from 2012-14 she served two AmeriCorps terms as a Youth Education Coordinator at Veggielution Community Farm in San Jose, CA, where she led the garden program at a nearby Elementary School. This is Nina's 4th year teaching at our Wrightwood site, which she attended in 5th grade as a Cornerstone Elementary School student in Palos Verdes, CA. Nina is a certified Wilderness First Responder, and spends her summers leading farming and gardening programs for kids.
Sierra Chris Willoughby, Naturalist Instructor
Sierra is originally from the Sierra Nevada mountains of northern California. This is Sierra’s fourth year at our Wrightwood site, where he enjoys living in the high mountains where the geology is interesting. Sierra studied neotectonics, earthquake geology, and paleoseismology while earning his M.S. degree Geology at the University of Nevada, Reno. For his thesis research, he investigated active faulting in the Ruby Mountains of northeast Nevada. Sierra created our hands-on tectonic modeling lesson for students to experiment and explore how a transform fault system like the San Andreas can form tall mountains. Sierra comes from working as a consulting geologist for landslide and slope stability investigations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sierra has also been an interpretive and education specialist ranger for the National Park Service 15 years in Mount Rainier, Pinnacles, Yosemite, Santa Monica Mountains, Denali, and Glacier Bay. Sierra enjoys taking time off between his ranger and naturalist work here at Outdoor Science School to travel, exploring high mountain ecosystems in North America, South America, Europe, Asia (Nepal and India), and New Zealand. On weekends, you might find Sierra behind his lens taking photos in nature, doing free form dancing, playing his wooden flute, making rock bead jewelry, editing video, or most likely hiking and climbing up mountains in nearby wilderness areas.