Every spring Bucks County Audubon Society (BCAS) hosts Teacher Naturalist training. This training gets people from the community involved in our school programs by teaching them to become Environmental Educators for our various programs.
This past training had our largest group participating yet! With 16 people in the group, there were so many diverse backgrounds, experience levels, and ages. Quite a few were retirees from the corporate world; some were recent college grads, specializing in things like Wildlife Conservation and Media, Biology/Ecology, and Wildlife and Fisheries; others were moms and dads who wanted to see the other side of the programs that their children had participated in; and there were some who had experience as teachers, but had the time to teach with us as well!
The best part of this training is that the trainees go through the programs as if they were the students – this means that they all get to participate in the hands-on, outdoor activities! Just as the school age children’s eyes light up when they catch their first tadpole, so did the trainees. As we made our way through the lessons that we have, the trainees were able to learn as well!
The first lesson talked about Animal Evidence. As part of this lesson kids search for clues left behind by the wildlife here at BCAS and make connections between animals and their habitat. This includes a game, called “Oh Deer,” which helps students visualize how deer populations fluctuate. The trainees played it as well and the competition was fierce!
The next lesson, called Signs of Spring (or Sumer/Fall/Winter), gets kids outside and exploring what makes each season special! The students get to take a huge mural back to their classroom, so the trainees made on to hang in our Visitor Center. Who knew that adults liked picking flowers, running around in search of skunk cabbage, and drawing just as much as kids?
The third week brought us the Nature Senses lesson. Many students, and adults for that matter, don’t take the time to appreciate nature using all of their senses. We talked about the five senses and how animals use them to their advantage. We took the time to simply sit silently and observe nature! Everyone heard something different and many were amazed at how much more they observed just by listening and focusing on their surroundings.
The last half of the training session started with our most popular lesson, Insects and Habitats. We started by asking a simple question, “What is an insect,” and many learned the exact definition (3 body parts, 3 pairs of legs attached at the thorax, and an external skeleton). In order to reinforce this knowledge, the trainees ran around in our fields and forests in search of these creatures to further inspect under our field microscopes.
The fifth lesson introduced the trainees to the topic of Wetlands and Watersheds. This is very important as BCAS is the steward of the Honey Hollow Watershed, a National Historic Landmark. This lesson got the trainees using D Nets to scoop up macroinvertebrates from our ponds, marshes, and streams. Many trainees crowded around buckets to take a closer look at the damsel/dragonfly nymphs, tadpoles, and itty bitty crayfish!
The final lesson was our most unique to BCAS lesson – Archaeology. Due to the incredible amount of history behind this property, students are able to take a look into the past during an archaeological dig! The trainees learned more about our history (dating back to the William Penn era in the early 1700’s) and got to see our dig site filled with bits of pottery, small tools, and old toys.
Upon completion of the six week training course, the trainees are able to observe our lessons and then actually teach these exciting programs to the local school kids that stop by! Our teaching season is now in full swing and the trainees are excited to get outside and spend time in nature with curious and enthusiastic children.
Becoming a Teacher Naturalist at BCAS is highly rewarding as you are not just getting to soak up some Vitamin D and play outside, but you are also making an impact on a child’s future. Many students today spend more time inside looking at a screen than they do outside investigating, playing, and discovering. Coming here for a field trip encourages them to become passionate about nature. One of my best personal experiences has been when three middle school aged girls told me that they wanted to become scientists because of the fun that they had while I was teaching them. They didn’t realize that “cool girls” could be scientists too. This made me so proud and has been one of my best memories of working here not just because they thought I was cool (although I was pretty happy about that), but because I had been a positive influence on the future generation of scientists!
If you want to have an impact on the next generation in a unique and exciting way, stay tuned for our next Teacher Naturalist Training and updates on our volunteer and internship opportunities! For more information check out these great links!