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Back to School …

… for volunteer training.

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Next Tuesday is the beginning of the naturalist training, for those of us interested in leading field trip hikes at the Howard County Conservancy.

I call it back to school, as I learn something new every time I attend the training sessions.

Fall programs for elementary and middle school children, as well as the opportunity to volunteer to chaperon service learning for middle and high school students, will be on our plate for the dozens of volunteers who attend part of or all the training sessions.

On Tuesdays, the middle school programs are discussed. The 10th, the topic will be Erosion in the STEM cycle. On the 17th, they are going to be offering more information about current and “pilot” programs for the middle schools.

On Thursdays, starting the 12th, we will be covering elementary school programs. 1st and 2nd grade on the 10th. third grade on the 17th, and 4th grade on the 26th. The 26th concludes with our traditional pot luck luncheon attended by almost all of the volunteers. Even those who don’t make it to the refresher training will come to visit and get ready for the October kick off of field trips and hikes.

I volunteer for at least five or six hikes. The requested commitment is for three hikes. You can even shadow the experienced volunteers before trying to lead a small group of students yourself.

The really fun part of this volunteer effort is the freedom we have to present material in a way that is comfortable for us. The goal is primarily to get the children engaged in the outdoors, using the earth science curriculum as the base,but allowing us to showcase nature. I tend to add a little math to the mix, to get the students more comfortable with measurements, or amounts, maybe some area or volume examples.

For example, how big is an acre? We tell the students about the size of the property but concepts new to the youngest students are best described using examples they can relate to. Like how many football fields they would have to mow to take care of 240 acres, the size of the farm.

Or how hard it was to build the barn, with no power tools. How big are those beams? How heavy do they think they are?

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The first graders learn about rocks. Why are rocks good for a foundation? How hard is it to build a wall of rocks? How bad are rocks in your field? What kind of rocks are around here?

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In the fall, we use the grasslands. In the spring, the woodlands. I like being in the grasslands, watching the leaves change. Looking for walnuts, beechnuts, acorns. Explaining how the animals prepare for winter. Opening milkweed cones to show them the seeds. Talking about the butterflies. So much to see and do and the children really get into it.

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Honestly. Can you think of a better place to spend a crisp fall morning?

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Can’t wait for our morning sessions and our refresher hikes to begin.

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About AnnieRie

Retired, I am following my dream of living in quiet west Howard County, a rural oasis, not far from the urban chaos, but just far enough. I love to cook, bake, garden, and travel. I volunteer at Howard County Conservancy. I lead nature hikes, manage programs and show children all the wonders of nature, and the agricultural connection to their food.

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