Each year, Audubon sees more than 5,000 children at the Center. Most of them come between mid-April and mid-June with their school classes for a Discovery Walk. There is no way that the education staff of three full-time naturalists and one part-time naturalist could lead all those walks, especially since we like the group size to be small to maximize the chances of seeing wildlife and to give the children more hands-on experiences.
That's why we need you. We need people who are fascinated by the natural world and can share a bit of time and enthusiasm with the hundreds of children who will visit this spring. As a Volunteer Trail Guide at Audubon, you will undergo a series of gentle training experiences, including an orientation, some reading, observing walks with naturalists, and sharing walks with naturalists. When you feel ready, we will assign you to a group of 8-10 children. Your job will be to make sure they don't get lost on the trail, and to guide them in nature explorations. Show them the best places to find chipmunk or red squirrel holes. Help them handle the worms and sow bugs they find under rocks and logs. Dip a critter or two out of the pond muck and let them see it swim in a cup. Marvel at the amount of racket the geese make when defending their territory. Let them observe Liberty, our Bald Eagle and answer their questions about her. Explain the mystery of the spit on the field plants, or the ball in the middle of the goldenrod stem. Keep an eye on the time and get them back to the Center - sometimes for lunch, sometimes to get back on the bus.
We have plenty of explorers' tools that you can take along in sacks we provide. You may opt to carry a small dip net for pond exploration and a stack of plastic cups. Or perhaps you will select a dozen magnifiers so the children in your group can look at things more closely. Maybe you'll pack a "hole sizer" - a laminated guide to the animals that make holes along our trails, or a track guide so you can figure out who left prints in the mud. We'll show you all these tools and give suggestions on how to use them at our training sessions.
Worried that you don't know enough about nature ... that you don't know the name of every tree, flower, and bird? Not to worry. Our Discovery Walks are more about exploring than about identifying ... and it's perfectly OK to answer a child's question with, "Gee, I don't know! I'm going to have to look that one up."
Our Volunteer Trail Guides consistently report that they feel they get more from the walks than they give. There is a great sense of satisfaction in seeing kids make a connection with the natural world. We hope you will want to join our team to help make that happen.
Trail Guide Training will take place starting at 10 a.m., on Wednesday, April 8. In addition to an orientation to Audubon and the basic Discovery Walk program, participants will enjoy a guided walk with past Audubon president Bruce Robinson who is a wealth of knowledge about Audubon's history - and in particular our trees. We plan to feed participants lunch, so please R.S.V.P. no later than Monday, April 6. Call 569-2345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unable to attend the Wednesday, April 8 training, fear not. We are happy to set up observations and orientation at other times. We also encourage you to check two online resources. (1) Click the "Fieldtrips" tab at jaschools.wordpress.com/. This description of what to expect on a Discovery Walk was written for the teachers who will bring their children to Audubon, but will also give potential Trail Guides an idea of what they will be doing. (2) Learn more about local wildlife by visiting wnyanimals.wordpress.com/.
The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren, Pa. Call 569-2345 for more information, or visit us online at /www.jamestownaudubon.org/.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at Audubon and doesn't mind sharing the most fun part of her job with others.