Amba DesJardins has degrees in Sociology and Child Development from the University of California, Davis. She acquired an early appreciation for the outdoors from adventurous outings with her mother and brother, and from her studies understands the importance of nature in children's lives. Amba frequently hikes at a brisk clip in Wilder Ranch State Park. Since 2005, she’s been a top producing Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Santa Cruz and the Silicon Valley. Her daughter has attended the program since its inception and prior, attended Flutterby, a Waldorf-inspired pre-school.
Kate Jaffe is the Founding Director of Santa Cruz Kids In Nature. She has a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz in Natural History and Environmental Education and is a certified California Naturalist through the CNP and UCSC Arboretum and an alum of the UCSC Natural History Field Quarter. Her senior thesis was written on this program and quantified the effectiveness of Forest- Based early childhood education. She has been teaching outdoors in farms, gardens and forests for over nine years for various programs including Life Lab at UCSC and Bayview, Fox Tracks Nature Program, Santa Cruz Children's School and UCSC as a TA and Lecturer. Among teaching and playing with kids outdoors, Kate's passions include bike touring, weaving and spinning wool, and making natural medicines from plants.
As a Mentor, Kate is dedicated to respectfully treating each child like an individual and creating a participatory learning experience which values the input of each person. Through creating room for soveriegnty in the learning experience, the children learn to think critically about the situations around them, to listen and respect their peer's ideas and opinions, to effectively communicate, and to trust themselves. She chooses the outdoors as the classroom for its natural ability to create teachable moments, to offer surmountable challenges, to fill us with joy, and to help us to find our place and take part in the enjoyment of and tending of our own habitat. Kate is Wilderness First Aid Certified through NOLS.
Elise Scheuermann is our Kindergarten Program Coordinator and a Lead Mentor for 1st - 3rd Grade programs. Elise has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Education from UC Santa Cruz. Two years ago she began working with Kids in Nature as part of her senior internship and is delighted to continue her third year working with this wonderful program. She is also a certified California Naturalist through the California Naturalist Program and spent her undergraduate career working at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum.
As a mentor Elise aspires to promote positive experiences in nature while helping children build relationships with the natural world. She enjoys sharing knowledge and learning from those who surround her. In her free time she can be found exploring Santa Cruz’s mountains and swimming in the ocean. Elise loves the outdoors and is grateful for the opporunity to work with children and this program!
Co- Founding Parents
Roger Schoenman is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has a long-standing interest in nature education programs as developed in Germany and Scandinavia and their impact on young children’s creativity, confidence, problem solving skills, and respect for community.
Spencer Klinefelter is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Education. He has been working in outdoor education in the Monterey Bay since 2010 with ages 6 to 24! He is a certified California Naturalist, long-time member of the CA Native Plant Society, and spends much of his free time backpacking, rock climbing, birding, botanizing, writing, and wandering wild spaces. Spencer is also an alum of the UCSC Natural History Field Quarter. He has been continuously certified in First Aid and CPR since 2010, and has extensive experience keeping children safe as they learn to navigate through the wonders of the wilderness.
When it comes to teaching and learning, he firmly believes in the powers of experiential education, community and collaboration, egalitarian social structures, and the cycle of inquiry, observation, and reflection. An advocate of learning based on natural phenomena, he hopes to ignite the curiosity of his students and peers by showing them the often overlooked, and by illuminating the frequently misunderstood. Working at the crossroads of social justice and ecological awareness, he aims to show others that the challenges we face are connected, multifaceted, and complex, but solvable with compassion, awareness, and a commitment to cultural and ecological wellbeing. Spencer is the Program Coordinator for 1st - 3rd Grade.