Our Story

As a parent, I found myself noticing the internal spirits of today's children seeming less peaceful with almost a frenetic need to be entertained. In a culture that values scores and achievement, the pressures to keep up can be so overwhelming that it's no wonder many families hyper-schedule their children's lives. And I was no different. But that still, small voice kept asking, "At what cost is all of this 'achievement'?"

Following my deepest instincts, I encouraged several families to prioritize slowing down and de-structuring our lives with time in nature. They let me take their children into nature several times a week, and kids were continually filled with awe and wonder as they explored, climbed, invented games, built structures and used nature to create unique art. As they pondered the vastness of the mountains along with the details of the insects' tiny homes, we all watched each child transform into more peaceful, confident and empathetic little humans. 

We knew this was a big part of the answer. So Nature Rangers was built in order to bring this gift into every household.

Now as wilderness lovers and trained educators, our team has brought together our expertise and passions to create a space where kids get to explore, create and learn through hands-on experiences in nature. A place where kids feel heard, seen and appreciated for their own special gifts. A place that is free from shifting narratives and brimming with love. We hope to have the honor of serving your family.

Founder, Tracy Thomas, in 2020 with her
inspiration for nature rangers

Meet Our Directors

Tracy Thomas

Founder and Director

Hi there, I'm Tracy and having spent most of my life swimming in the Pacific or hiking in the Sierras, I am most at home in the wild. I've learned the importance of prioritizing these roots, as slowing down and relishing in the divinity found in nature helps me to experience and share the blessings of each precious moment.

Despite my soul's yearnings, I found myself living like most people surrounded by concrete, yet craving my natural roots for myself and for my daughter. I wanted to allow wonder and curiosity to guide us, while introducing her to the nuances of the natural world. I wanted to teach kindness and resilience alongside shelter-building and shifting weather patterns. I wanted to do science experiments in the elements followed by making picture frames out of fallen twigs. I knew I was being called to create a space where childhood was preserved. And so, Nature Rangers was born. As I have grown and matured in my own journey, I've sought to pass on the love to the families we serve.

I am a certified Forest School Teacher, a public speaker, and a board-certified holistic nutritionist. I hold degrees and certifications in Emotional Development, Elementary Montessori, Wilderness First Aid, Leadership and have a Master's Degree from UC Santa Barbara. When I'm not serving families in our local outdoor programs, you can usually find me skiing or backpacking in Mammoth with my daughter (aka Nature Rangers' favorite little program critic!) 

Julie Otero


Hello, I'm Julie. My greatest passions involve exploring the great outdoors and traveling the world to experience different cultures and ways of life. I feel most alive and at peace in places where my cellphone has no coverage, and I think it's important for kids to learn to love the outdoors as well. I believe in the power of play and enjoy creating nature study and wilderness skills lessons for our students.

When forced to move myself indoors, I enjoy working behind the scenes on marketing and business initiatives for the company as well as developing our online curriculum. 

I hold a B.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University and a masters degree from Northeastern University in Nonprofit Administration and Leadership.  Recently I earned a postgraduate certificate in Social and Emotional Learning from University of Colorado, Boulder.

Lauren Beattie

co-director of programs 

Hello, I am Lauren, a devoted and enthusiastic educator with a deep love for the outdoors and steadfast commitment to nurturing young minds. Raised across New York, Toronto, and London, and having traveled the world to experience the wonders of nature, I have found home in picturesque Santa Barbara. Though my career began in the fast-paced realm of event planning, my heart always yearned to work with children.

The joy of motherhood and the invaluable experiences gained from teaching my own son inspired me to embrace my true calling as an outdoor educator. My son and I attended preschool at The Oaks Parent-Child Workshop, where my passion for teaching blossomed as I engaged with children and delved into child development. I find immense joy in witnessing children immersed in nature, exploring, discovering, and growing, knowing that I am helping to shape responsible and compassionate citizens. My belief in open communication, understanding, and empathy enables me to forge meaningful connections with both children and their families. My goal is to ignite a lifelong love for learning within each child. With training in Early Child Development and Forest School, I strive to create a serene and secure environment where children can learn and thrive. Additionally, I hold a certification in Wilderness First Aid ensuring the safety and well-being of every child under my care.

Dr. Candace Poindexter

education DIRECTOR

Hello, I'm Candace and as a lifelong educator, I am inspired when I see the wonder and joy in children’s faces as they experience something new or meet a challenge with impunity.  Likewise, observing students demonstrate positive character traits such as kindness, optimism, empathy and perseverance in their work and play is a delight to me as an educator.  My goal is to inspire children to love learning as much as I have been inspired to teach!

I'm a Professor Emeritus at Loyola Marymount University's School of Education, following my 35 year career serving as Chair of Elementary and Secondary Education Department and Director of LMU's Literacy Lab. I am an author of several books and articles in peer-reviewed journals, a public speaker and I currently oversee national accreditation for schools.

Mariana Rickard

co-director of summer crafts

Hello, I'm Mariana and I've been an outdoor enthusiast my entire life. I spent much of my adult life in Colorado and the Washington wilderness, and I am passionate about both the outdoors and about children. I have a young daughter with whom I do many of my adventures. I also have had several art businesses, and I bring my craftiness to Nature Rangers as our arts and crafts specialist. I love to sit in nature with children watching their own creativity take over as they run with their ideas.

I am trained in Early Child Development and Montessori theory, and I use this to help create a warm a nurturing environment for the children. I also have a science degree and an art degree from the Claremont Colleges.