Learning and service to benefit the environment
From press release
The Illinois Master Naturalist Program is an innovative program of the University of Illinois Extension-Winnebago County, in which individuals first learn about our local environment and then volunteer to preserve it. The program’s 48-hour general ecology course boasts expert instructors from nine local environmental organizations, the natural environment for a classroom, and an opportunity to experience, firsthand, Winnebago County’s beautiful parks and preserves. Upon course completion, participants commit to 30 hours of volunteer service per year in benefit of the environment.
Thirty-nine adults have completed the Master Naturalist training, taking part in a unique learning experience that impacts them in many positive ways. Bob Arevalo of Rockford enjoyed the hands-on aspect to each session, stating: “We didn’t just talk about aquatic ecology. We went into the creek and observed the many hidden creatures that were there. It was fascinating! I will never look at a creek without thinking about all those creatures that are part of the web of life.”
The naturalists have begun their volunteer projects and have already contributed more than 975 volunteer hours in benefit of the environment. Their projects are as unique as the participants, and the opportunities are numerous and exciting. Many naturalists work on habitat restoration and stewardship projects with local environmental organizations, while others perform environmental education programming and activities. Most importantly, all participants have the freedom to choose volunteer projects that fit their interests, abilities and time limitations.
Naturalist Janet Herbert of Rockford says: “I’m wrestling with the question of which is more important: getting myself back into nature more often, helping some part of the natural world through a conservation project, or helping kids get the opportunity to experience what I did before it is too late. To say the experience changed my life sounds trite, but it definitely has.” Judy Barnard, also of Rockford, adds, “I came away from this class totally impressed with the work that is being done in our area in the environmental field and with a realization that there is no end to the opportunities that this class and related organizations have to offer people of all ages.”
Registration is now open for the fall session of the Master Naturalist Program, which begins Aug. 17. To register or learn more about the program, visit extension.illinois.edu/winnebago or call University of Illinois Extension-Winnebago County at (815) 086-4357.
From the Aug. 11-17, 2010 issue
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