Backcountry Pathfinder Program

To ensure the success of our mission to preserve native plants and habitats, it is crucial that we actively engage in inspiring the next generation of stewards for our planet. The Garden’s Pathfinder program, generously supported by the Robinson Foundation, stands out as a beacon for youths aged eight to 13, providing them with free opportunities to immerse themselves in the wonders of the natural world while acquiring essential skills to safeguard it.

For young explorers who cherish nature and aspire to develop their leadership abilities, our Backcountry Pathfinder Program offers many ways to get involved. With three purpose-driven tracks – plants and people, biodiversity, and horticulture – each experience is designed to reinforce their connection, expertise, and appreciation for native plants and habitats.

As Pathfinders dive into diverse aspects of horticulture, the art of cultivating plants, they will not only become familiar with the fundamentals of plant reproduction but also hone their practical skills in the process. Be sure to check out our full calendar regularly for additional opportunities to expand your Pathfinders knowledge and expertise in horticulture.

Cutting Clones

In this program, Pathfinders create clones from plants as they do vegetative cuttings. They’ll discover how plants have special structures for regrowth that can be used to create entirely new plants. They’ll wrap up by planting a cutting to take home. 

Back in Spring 2025

Super Seeds

This program is all about seeds! From seeds that fly to ones that dig themselves in the ground, Pathfinders will investigate the amazing adaptations and structures seeds have to survive. Each participant will conclude the day by choosing a native wildflower seed to plant and take home. 

Fall Session: October 19, 2024

Fun With Fibers

In this program, Pathfinders will utilize plant fibers to weave yucca cordage to take home. They’ll discover why plant fibers are so resilient and why it is so valuable in our everyday lives. 

Fall Session: October 5, 2024

Nature’s Playground

Pathfinders will experience how nature offers a bounty of resources for creativity and fun as they utilize natural materials from the Garden to develop games of their own design. We’ll discover how, in nature, with a little imagination and some ingenuity, the possibilities for fun are limitless! 

Fall Session: November 7, 2024

Insect Investigators

In this program, Pathfinders will embark on a bug-filled adventure as we explore the world of insects.  Using investigation methods used by real scientists, we’ll discover how insects and native plants are connected and why they’re vital to healthy ecosystems. 

Back in Spring 2025

Growing for Pollinators

Give thanks to pollinators as we discover how to make an ideal garden for them. We’ll explore basic skills for building habitats and investigate which flowers pollinators like best.  

Back in Spring 2025

Finding Feathered Friends

This program is all about play! Pathfinders will experience how nature offers a bounty of resources for creativity and fun as they utilize natural materials from the Garden to develop games of their own design. We’ll discover how, in nature, with a little imagination and some ingenuity, the possibilities for fun are limitless!  

Fall Session: November 2, 2024

Container Gardening 101

In this program, Pathfinders will bring nature to their doorstep as we dive into how to create a mini garden in a pot.  Discover the joy of nurturing life as we delve into the art of planting, cultivating, and caring for your very own potted plants. 

Back in Spring 2025

From Acorns to Oaks

As Pathfinders explore various forms of horticulture, the act of growing plants, they’ll become familiar with the basics of plant reproduction while developing their skills. In this program, Pathfinders will receive firsthand experience germinating an oak acorn. They’ll explore how oaks are keystone species and support an abundance of organisms before planting an acorn to care for at home.

Fall Session: November 16, 2024

Marvelous Woodland Mammals

In this program, Pathfinders will discover how to uncover the secrets and hidden stories of our marvelous woodland mammals. As we explore the Garden, Pathfinders will learn tricks to learn more about their homes, habits and traits as we search for tracks and animal signs. 

Fall Session: September 21, 2024

Pathfinder FAQ

Why would my child want to be a Backcountry Pathfinder? 

The Pathfinder program is free and provides an excellent platform for skill-building in nature, fostering confidence, and nurturing leadership qualities. Participants become eligible to engage in special events and assume leadership roles in various Garden family activities. These activities encompass community planting days, scientific investigations, and the creation of earth art installations. Additionally, Pathfinders have the privilege of borrowing exploration equipment from the Backcountry, including walkie-talkies, binoculars, investigation backpacks, and other materials, enhancing their overall exploration experience.

When and where do these programs happen?

Badge-earning opportunities take place every other Saturday starting at 11 a.m.  Participants meet at the Basecamp area in the Backcountry. 

What badges can participants earn? 

Our programs are centered around three main themes: horticulture, biodiversity, and the use of natural resources. Once a child has completed a program, they’re invited to participate in seasonal badge-earning opportunities in additional themes that highlight nature connection. Programs provide children with foundational knowledge on the subject and always include a hands-on activity. 

Can I drop my child off at these events? 

While children are participating in the Program, parents are welcome to stay and supervise the activity or wander within the Garden’s grounds. To ensure the safety of every child, we’ll request your cell number and ask that you stay on Garden grounds for the duration of the event. 

What do I do with my badges once I’ve earned them? 

Each badge represents the completion of a Pathfinder skill. Sew badges onto items like backpacks, sashes, and clothing, or kept as small trinkets. 

How do I check-out investigation materials in the Backcountry once my child becomes a Pathfinder? 

At the end of each event, Pathfinders can sign up to receive Pathfinder news and info, including a special code needed for accessing our toolbox. At their next Garden visit, they can visit the Pathfinder Toolbox located next to the Ranger’s station in the Backcountry to unlock the box and check out materials. 

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