Ever since I I became a Volunteer Naturalist I’ve been taking kids from age 3 to maybe 12 on educational field trips on the TRNWR. It’s been chaotic but at the same time fun and rewarding. It’s gratifying to see the little ones become fascinated by the natural things we show them on the refuge. That’s what we’re all about.
Yesterday I had a similar experience with what I call “youngsters” who were early college-age. About 15 students from a class at Portland Community College came for a field trip for their class on fresh water organisms and water purity. There three of us Volunteer Naturalists so we split the group into three parts to go to different water features of the refuge. I got to take my contingent to the pond, my favorite.
I got to do my spiel about Azolla and then we started collecting specimens of invertebrates, trolling in the murky water with net. After some initial “Eww, will it bite me?” they settled into picking through globs of mud and rotting plant matter for anything that moved. They became as entranced by what they discovered as the little ones I had earlier who wanted to pick up each squirming bug and tadpole with their bare hands. To my way of thinking, enthusiasm is the best indicator of success. These students were full of questions too, but with them, if I didn’t know the answer, I could say, “You go research it.”