Astronomy, Featured

Astrono-who? Astronomy!

Astronomy, the study of stars, may be one of the oldest sciences we study.  As we study astronomy we are beginning to see that it could, in fact, be one of our most important sciences. Some individuals even argue its importance when you look at the history of our species as well as our present situation and future too. This study also benefits us by providing a cultural identity.

Since the time of hunter gatherers our ancestors have found ways of navigating by using the stars; we are all descendants of astronomers! Long ago understanding the locations of specific stars and planets meant the difference between life and death. For those who lived in the northern hemisphere, they noticed that one star would stay at a fixed point in the sky while other stars would move around it in a circle. This is our Pole Star Polaris. Our earth sits at a 23.5-degree angle directing the north pole towards Polaris as well as resulting in the seasons. From noticing this pattern of a fixed point our past relatives perceived a way to understand our cardinal directions.

Polaris was not always our North Star though. Thousands of years ago while the pyramids were being built our original star that pointed North for us was named Thuban. Polaris can be the name of any Pole Star our current Pole Star was originally named Phoenice. In about twelve thousand years our new polestar will be Vega in the constellation Lyra. This is due to an interesting movement our Earth has called precession. While our Earth is tilted, revolving and rotating around the sun the process of precession gives our Earth a small wobble which causes a small imaginary circle in the sky every 26000 years.

north star

Humans created their own images and pictures in the sky by connecting the stars. These recognizable patterns of stars are known as constellations. Over thousands of years and thousands of miles, different cultures created similar stories and pictures for their constellations. For example, The Pleiades are a cluster of stars that are most visible in the northern hemisphere during the winter. This star cluster is known as a nebula which is basically a nursery for stars. When we look at the Pleiades we are watching stars being born right before our very eyes. This prominent sight in the night sky has been admired by multiple societies including the Celts, Persians, Chinese, Sioux, and Aztecs.


To illustrate the similarities between the cultures we can look at the Greeks story and compare them to the Native Americans of Wyoming. Although both of these cultures were on opposite ends of the earth they both created stories similar in plots. The two stories illustrate several women who are sisters that are running from danger and eventually made it into the sky only to forever be chased. The Lakota told stories of the women running from bears. Greeks believed the sisters to be running from Orion the Hunter. Interestingly enough the Pleiades star cluster was used around the world in multiple cultures as an early eye chart. Individuals who could see five of the stars in the cluster were considered to have good eyesight, but those who could see seven or more stars were considered to have the best eyesight and sometimes became scouts because of this crucial observational skill.

Today at Arrowhead Ranch we are continuing the practice of this skill in teaching navigation through observation by reading the stars as well as understanding history and culture related to the stars. The night program we have at our outdoor science school conveys the importance of these teachings to our students. While on night time hikes students learn in depth about stars, planets, navigation, constellations and Astronomy. At the conclusion of the hike we leave the children with important skills and the ability to carry on the oldest traditions of one of mankind.

By: Toast



Featured, Geology

Is It Your Fault or Mine?

Today we’re going to talk about various geological formations at Arrowhead Ranch and how they were formed! Below, in the first picture, you are able to see Mount Baldy, a mountain visible from Strawberry Peak. Mount Baldy is part of the San Bernardino mountain range but is in fact on the opposite side of the San Andreas fault. The San Andreas fault is where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates meet and create a transverse boundary. A transverse boundary is where two tectonic plates slide against each other. The motion of two plates sliding against each other can cause earthquakes, which is why California has so many.

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In the next picture you are able to see a variety of rocks and minerals that can be found at Arrowhead Ranch. The difference between a rock and a mineral is that rocks are made up of minerals which in turn are made up of elements. One of the most common rocks found at Arrowhead Ranch is granite, which is the most common intrusive igneous rock and also makes up the bulk of the continental crust. An intrusive igneous rock is a rock which cools beneath the earth’s surface. Because it cools beneath the earth’s surface, intrusive igneous rocks have larger crystals, which can often be seen. The granite seen around Arrowhead Ranch often contains three common minerals: mica, quartz, and feldspar. Mica is a flaky and black, quartz is a colorless mineral composed of silica, and feldspar is the one of the most common minerals in the world and can appear either white, pink, red, or even gray. In contrast to intrusive igneous rock such as granite, there are extrusive igneous rocks such as obsidian, a glassy black mineral often found in arrowheads, which cool quickly and hardens without crystals.


Featured, Meteorology

Water Are You Doing?

By: Mars


Vann, voda, vesi, aqua…water! No matter which way you flip it, turn it, roll it we need it! Water is the driving force behind many processes in this world, but where does it come from and where is it going…water, water are you doing?

Water moves in a cycle or a process that repeats itself. Basically, the water we see in the world is recycled. Let’s start with condensation. Condensation is the process where water vapor, like steam, is changed into liquid water, like we would drink out of a cup. When these water droplets combine with dust, salt, or other particles in the air they form clouds! As clouds continue to get larger and acquire more water droplets they could produce precipitation, the next phase in our cycle!

Precipitation is the means by which water falls from the sky! The water is not necessarily in liquid form. It could be in solid form too, like snow, sleet, or hail! Once the water reaches land it percolates. Percolation is the process by which the water makes its way through the ground. It seeps through the soil and makes its way to underground aquifers, big pools of water underground! Not all water has time to percolate. After water precipitates it can either land in a body of water, like a river or a creek, or makes it can make its way to a body of water through run off. Run off is when water rolls across the earth until it reaches a body of water. We have reached the next phase of the water cycle, transportation! Once all the water is together it is transported, or moved, to the ocean…eventually.

Once the water makes its way to the ocean, and sometimes even before, the water makes its way to the next phase of our cycle. Liquid water that is floating along in our streams water.pngand ocean can be changed into water vapor through a process called evaporation. This water vapor returns to the sky and eventually condenses into clouds, and just like that we are back at the beginning, right?! Not so fast, remember that water that was hanging out in our aquifer? Well that water can be transported and eventually makes its way into another body of water or plants can take it up through their roots! Plants need the water to help with processes like photosynthesis. Plants also give off water through their pores, this liquid water is changed into water vapor in a process called transpiration. The water vapor returns to the sky and eventually condenses into clouds, and just like that we are back at the beginning, for real this time!

The water we drink today could have rained down on the Earth millions of years ago, or maybe been a cloud just yesterday. The water we have is all the water we get! That is way it is really important that we take steps to protect our water from becoming contaminated with pollutants that hurt us and other organisms. Things like riparian buffers, construction and factory regulations can all help ensure that our water stays nice a clean! Clean water makes for happy and healthy organisms of all shapes and size, including humans. Let’s make sure we are doing our part! I have two challenges for you! Number 1: learn about a pollutant that may be affect water in your neighborhood. Number 2: make a lifestyle change or take an action that will help protect our water for future generations!           



Water Cycle-



Botany, Featured

So Many Trees…Oh Geez!

By: Mars


Here in the San Bernardino Mountains there are so many trees…sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart. But have no fear…I have your tree guide here!

First, let’s take a closer look at our tree and the parts that we can use to help with our identification. Trees have bark that cover and protect the outside of the tree. Bark can come in a variety of colors and textures so it can be a useful tool when identifying trees. The leaves on a tree can also be very telling. There shape, size, and color can help us decipher our trees. Finally, we can use the fruits or seeds the trees produce to identify them. Acorns, pine cones, and seeds oh my!

Let’s start with the leaves, the trees we have here on the mountain are going to have either broad leaves or needles. Broad leaves are most commonly found on deciduous trees, or trees that lose their leaves seasonally. While trees with needles are most commonly evergreen trees. Trees that lose their leaves throughout the year instead of all at once. Here on the mountain the majority of our trees are evergreen and we have quite a few so lets start out simple…with our deciduous trees.

We have two native deciduous trees here and we can easily tell them apart by taking a closer look at their leaves! The shape of the leaf can tell us what tree we are looking at. The broadleaf deciduous trees you will run into up here will either have hand shaped leaves or lobed leaves. Hand shaped leaves originate from our California Black Oaks, while the lobe shaped leaves originate from our Pacific Dogwoods. Our dogwoods produce a glorious show for us each spring as they flower! On the other hand our black oaks shine in the fall as they drop their golden leaves everywhere.

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Now onto the evergreens! First, let’s take a look at the needles and how they grow. Needles can grow in bundles of three or five. These bundles are also called fascicles. Trees with five needles are a part of the White Pine family. Here in our neck of the woods the only White Pines we have are Sugar Pines. Sugar Pine trees produce some of the longest pinecones I have ever seen! While trees with five needles are a part of the Yellow Pine family. We have three yellow pines in our forest. One that is easy to pick out is the Coulter Pine, because it has massive, heavy pinecones, the largest of any other pine tree! The Jeffrey Pine and Ponderosa Pine can be a little trickier to distinguish. They both have bark that looks very similar to puzzle pieces. Your best bet is to find a pinecone and roll it between your palms. If the pinecone is very prickly, it most likely came from a Ponderosa. However, if the pinecone is fairly gentle then it most likely came from a Jeffrey.      

Many of our trees have leaves that do not grow in fascicles, some even have needles that grow directly off the branch! These trees are fir trees, more specifically White Fir. White Fir needles can even provide a tasty little snack…the contain vitamin C, so if you chew one up it like your eating an orange! Additionally, some of the trees in our glorious forest have flat, scale like needles. These segmented and continually branching needles belong to an Incense Cedar Tree. Just as its name suggests, if you crumple up the leaves a bit you get a wonderful scent!

You are the only exception(not really)…here in the San Bernardino mountains we have a tree called a Canyon Live Oak, which is an evergreen tree with broad leaves. These can be found along steep slopes and regenerate very fast after forest fires! If we just use our brain we can identify all of these trees with not one bit of pain!          



Needles- from nat handbook


Featured, Geology

Ogres, Onions, and the Earth

Ogres, Onions, and the Earth

By: Mars

Ogres, onions, and the Earth are really all one in the same…if you think about it. Ogres and onions have layers just like this very Earth that we live on! You might think that you are standing on a giant pile of rocks, which is probably true, but the below all of those rocks there are even more layers to our magnificent planet.

layersNow let’s start with that pile of rocks we were talking about, geologists (scientists who study the Earth and its processes) call this outermost layer of the the Earth our crust. Just like a pizza, but probably not as tasty and definitely not as cheese! We have two different types of crusts here on Earth: oceanic and continental. Oceanic crust is the layer of rock that sits beneath our big beautiful oceans. This layer is made up of basalt, an igneous rock formed the cooling of lava. Basalt rock is composed mostly of silica, magnesium, and iron. This crust ranges from roughly 3 to 5 miles in thickness. Our continental crust CRUSTon the other hand, is made up mostly of granite, an igneous rock formed from the cooling of magma. Granite rock is composed mostly of silica, aluminum, potassium and calcium. This crust can is made up of valleys and mountains so it can reach thicknesses up to 25 miles! Much like how our pizza crust is broken into different slices, Earth’s crust is broken into pieces we call tectonic plates. We have seven major, large, plates and many minor, small, plates, that pieced together make up the crust of our Earth.

As we continue to peel back the layer of our Earth we make our way to the mantle. Unlike a mantle you might find in your house above your fireplace, this mantle is viscous, meaning it moves around like a thick liquid, maybe even a little jelloy! The viscosity, or jelloyness, of the mantle allows heat to travel in convection currents, just like an oven. Convection currents occur when hotter matter rises, pushing down cooler matter, which is heated and the process continues. Our tectonic plates which rest on top of our mantle move as these currents circulate. Our mantle is composed of silica, magnesium, and iron, similar to the rocks found in our crust. This layer is very important as it makes up 80% of Earth volume and is roughly 1,800 miles thick!

Next we have Earth’s core which, just like an apple core is located in the middle of our Earth. Our core is divided into two parts: the outer core and the inner core. The outer core is made of liquid iron and nickel and is about 1,400 miles thick. While the inner core is composed of solid iron and nickel and has a radius of about 760 miles. The iron in Earth’s core generates 90% of the Earth’s magnetism.

Just like ogres and onions beneath each layer is another one, containing new questions and discoveries. The more layers we peel back the better we are able to understand the Earth we live on!     



Image Sources:

Earth’s layers-




Weathering and Erosion

Today we’re going to be talking about weathering and erosion and how it can affect the world around us.

Weathering and erosion have helped to shape the world around us in a way that has

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given us a variety of amazing landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Niagara falls. The processes of weathering and erosion can often be hard to distinguish between for those not familiar with the two. The most important differences between the two are weather or not the rock in question stays in the same place or not. Weathering is when a rock, boulder, or other geological feature is broken down through either chemical or mechanical means. In this process, the geological feature being affected stays in the same place. Chemical weathering is any sort of chemical change in a rock that causes it to break down. This can be caused by any number of substances from water, which can cause the breakdown of minerals such as limestone through the process of dissolution, to oxygen, which results in the oxidation of minerals such as iron. Mechanical weathering is the physical breaking down of rocks into smaller pieces through a variety of processes. Water is one of the number one causes of mechanical weathering through processes such as crystallization, hydration, and frost action. When either chemical or physical weathering occurs and the sediment from the rocks is transferred to another place, this is known as erosion.

Erosion has helped to shape the landscape around us. In order to remember what processes cause erosion, it is important to remember “the three w’s” of erosion: wind, water, and wear. All three of these processes aid in transferring broken down sediment from one place to another. A great example of how erosion transfers sediment from one place to another is how wind has been able to move sediment from the mountains of San Bernardino all the way down to the beaches of Los Angeles.

Written By: Boo

Featured, Introduction

A Statement of Purpose

Welcome to the Arrowhead Ranch Blog! This blog is intended to give parents, teachers, administrators, and (of course) students an idea of what to expect from Arrowhead Ranch Outdoor Science School. Our curriculum is NGSS compliant, and focuses on student driven, hands on experiences. We hold ourselves to a high standard, and we love sharing our passion for nature and science. The blog posts here are all written by staff members of Arrowhead Ranch who love to teach and want to share their passion with the world!