SJOE Naturalist Intern Position

We are looking for motivated educators looking to guide low income and diverse students from California's San Joaquin County through the outdoors.

We are committed to equity, inclusion, and diversity and welcome applicants from all backgrounds to live and work in community together and serve as role models and leaders for youth as they learn about themselves and their world.

If you would like to apply for the 2020-2021 school year or learn more about employment opportunities, please contact Allison Collins (see contact info below).

We are always accepting resumes and cover letters, but our official hiring process will begin in January and continue through May or until all the positions are filled.


-B.A. or B.S. Degree 
-Experience working with children 

-Driver's license 

-Current CPR/First Aid Certification

-Must be able to commit to entire contract dates

You will gain skills in
-Outdoor leadership
-Science education
-Public speaking and performance
-Natural history and plant and animal identification
-Group and time management
-Lesson and program planning

- $330 per week (including training)
- Private room and board for the duration of contract 
- Approx. $900 medical and dental reimbursement 

Contract Dates

Generally the last week of August to the last week of May.

Start and end dates are non-negotiable.

Staff will have one week off for Thanksgiving break and two weeks off for Winter break.



Interns must have a genuine love for children and the outdoors. Our work weeks are typically 40 hours long but often span entire days (with breaks interspersed). For example, on Monday, depending on your schedule, you may work from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm. You will live and work in a small community and thus will have to be flexible, understanding, and communicative. Interns must be dedicated and hard working, sometimes giving beyond 100%. The work week runs from 9:30am on Monday (pre-student preparation – students arrive about 1:00pm) until about 3:00pm on Friday (ending with an in-service training).


The educational hikes are theme oriented and based on the Next Generation Science Standards. This is the foundation that we use to prepare lesson plans. During staff training we cover how to lesson plan, model teaching on trails, and spend time preparing sample lessons. While we strive to provide mentorship with senior naturalists and the principal you are also expected to be an independent worker – we have found the best way to learn how to do this job, is by jumping in.

Weekly Programs

Forest Trail: You will be responsible for 1 intro, 1 all day hike, 1 night hike, 1 half day hike, and 1 closing hike through the redwood forest, a total of about 15 hours.

Beach Day: Every week you will spend about 6 hours at the beach. Beach environments include the marsh, tide pools, and sandy coast. You will make 2-3 stops on beach day, usually spending 1-3 hours at each stop.

Evening Program:  Bring your guitar and musical skills!  Every evening there is a 2-hour long program. Monday is Sea Lab (a coastal ecosystems prep program) and campfire, Tuesday is night hike, Wednesday is Camp Night with stories and skits, and Thursday is Performing Arts Campfire (students perform skits). You will co-lead 2 evening programs a week (night hike is independent and you will lead one each week). During evening programs, you will learn to project your voice, tell stories, sing songs, and engage a group of 130-170 students. You are then responsible for cleaning up after programs and checking 1-3 cabins before bedtime at 9:30pm.

Meals: You will co-lead 3 meals per week depending on the schedule. Working meals consists of entertaining students before letting them in the dining hall, directing them to set the tables and put food out, making announcements when students can come get food and clean up, dismissing students, and directing them to sweep the dining hall.

Office Staff: Interns are expected to occasionally rotate into two different office staff positions, Health Clerk and TLC (Teacher Liaison/Character).  Each intern can expect to be on-trail approximately 3 of every 4 weeks of work, that 4th week serving as either the Health Clerk or TLC.  These positions help cover the office, taking care of any medical or discipline issues that come up.  They are also on call at night, once during the week to answer any night-time "emergency" calls.   As the Health Clerk and TLC are not on trail, this is also a time for naturalists to refresh their skills, shadow other naturalists, and create/improve program teaching materials.

Health Clerk: We have a full time health clerk who is EMT certified, but each week a naturalist rotates into the office to work as the medic assistant.  The Health Clerks are responsible for checking in and dispensing medications throughout the week.  As a health clerk, you can expect to work either a morning or an afternoon/evening shift each day during the week.

TLC (Teacher Liaison/Character): Each week, one naturalist rotates into the TLC position, which incorporates two main responsibilities, the "Teacher Liaison" and the "Campfire Character".  As "Teacher Liaison", the TLC holds meetings with the classroom teachers throughout the week to help make sure that their needs and the needs of their students are being met by our program.  As "Campfire Character", the TLC develops an original or existing character to provide entertainment, a theme, and a take-away message during campfires.  The TLC picks which songs are led by naturalists each night at campfire and shows up in disguise.  Past characters have included Mandy the Mountain-climber (over-prepared with gear for the forest), Old Man Redwood (a story-teller who lives in the forest), and Joey from Jersey (a city-slicker, refusing to leave his cell phone behind).  As an intern you'll have the opportunity to reprieve a past character or develop your own.

Other Requirements
-You will be carrying backpacks, tending compost, setting up evening programs, hiking long distances, and other various physical tasks. You must be physically fit and capable.

-Most Fridays include professional development in-services for about 2-3 hours that may include natural history learning, positive discipline, AEOE Conferences, or field trips.

-Lesson planning, cleaning up after hikes, and communication with the principal are scheduled into your work week, but will occasionally run into your own time.

-The schedule for next year is not set in stone, Traditionally we have one week off for Thanksgiving and 2 weeks for Winter Break.

-You are under contract from start dates to finish dates so time off during the week or weeks off is not possible. Leaving early from the contract is not possible either (except for extreme situations). The schedules do vary however and can allow you some business hours to take care of personal needs with different times off during the week.

More About Where You Will Live

Our site is located in the redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains-- a beautiful place to live! The redwoods keep the forest cool or cold during most of the year, and the rainy season extends from November to March. We are only a few inches of rain per year from being considered a “rainforest,” and occasionally it will rain every day for weeks. This ample precipitation gives us an amazing array of mushrooms in the winter and flowers in the spring. The moist climate also makes our forest a great place for banana slugs and salamanders, which we find in abundance. We also have daily Mule Deer encounters, and monthly coyote and bobcat sightings. Our site is about 10 miles inland from Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean, which is also usually pretty chilly. The central coast of California is incredibly picturesque with sandy cliffs and rocky tide pools, and a marsh full of migratory birds. Out in the open ocean, marine mammal sightings include harbor seals, elephant seals, sea lions and even gray whales! Our site is surrounded by several county and state parks, so you can literally walk out your door and hike or bike for miles.

The forest is a relatively isolated place and cell phones do not work on site. Small mountain towns dot the roads. Just inland from the coast is the small town of Pescadero, which boasts a thrift store, restaurant, artichoke bread, and a gas station with the best burritos on the coast (and, of course, gas). The closest “big town” (the place where you would do your grocery shopping) is Half Moon Bay, which is about a half hour away. Redwood City, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco are all about an hour’s drive.

Aside from the 12 naturalists employed at SJOE itself, there are four other outdoor schools very close by.  Consequently, if you interested, you may choose to participate in the greater naturalist community in the area, with whom you may choose to play music, discuss education techniques, share naturalist knowledge, or simply spend time on the weekends.

Application Instructions

To apply, email cover letter, resume, and three professional references with phone numbers and email addresses to:

Allison Collins 
11000 Pescadero Rd
La Honda, CA 94020
(650) 747-0139

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