Today’s A-to-Z Challenge letter is N for Naturalist
As if this week was not busy enough already, it also happened to be the first week for my Illinois Master Naturalist training classes. I didn’t want to be missing the very first class, and figured a few hours away from all the Mom stuff would probably be a good thing for me anyway, so I went.
The sessions are being held at the University of Illinois Extension office way out in the boonies of Kendall County about 40 miles away. I arrived about 2 minutes late, but found one last open seat in the back row of the classroom.
The training program had not been run for a couple of years due to budget cutbacks, but fortunately this year, the Kendall Country Forest Preserve District stepped up to help the U of I restart the program.
There turned out to be about 22 of us who will be going through the program this year. A wide mix of people—some have taken the U of I’s other “Master” certification program and are Certified Master Gardeners, others are already working at area Forest Preserves and looking to round out their knowledge, and then there are a majority of us who are retired or semi-retired who are looking to volunteer at parks, and learn more about nature so that we can share that with others.
The class coordinator put us through some fun “ice breaker” activities to get us interacting with each other. One involved having us fill out a checklist of what unusual things we had experienced in nature (such as watch a butterfly emerge from a cocoon, find a robin nest with eggs, hunt and find Morel mushrooms, see a family of Red Fox, etc) and then walk around the classroom to find others who had experiences for the checkboxes you had lacked.
Another exercise had us rank from 1 to 10 our feelings on some current environmental ethics questions. We then had to walk around the room to the number on the wall that corresponded with our ranking.
While some of our values were quite universal (i.e. we all stood at the 10 sign for strongly agreeing that “It is important for people to preserve wilderness areas even if a vast majority of people will never visit them”), we were surprisingly not as much in agreement for statements like “Global warming caused by human pollution is an undeniable fact” (about 1/3rd of the class were “undecided” while the rest of us stood at the “strongly agreed” sign). The point was not to chastise, but to raise awareness that others who you may assume share your values and beliefs, may very well not, and that it will be important for us as citizen scientists to study all sides of a question and open our minds to different points of view.
I think I’m going to really love this class over the next 2 months!