My official title at Audubon is “Program Director”. That means that I’m the teacher/naturalist who gets to do the reports and make sure we are jumping through all the right hoops. In other words, I do get to go outside and show stuff to kids now and again. And because that’s my favorite part, I try to maximize it.
This week I had a group of 3rd graders from Forestville School. We were nearing the end of our walk. I gathered the group to explain that we would be walking across the backyard to see goose nesting on the island, and to see our bald eagle. (Jamestown Audubon volunteers care for an injured bald eagle that cannot be released.) As we turned the corner a black and white flash caught my eye – close, just above us. Two mature bald eagles were floating on the thermals. I’ve seen this sight many times, but this was the first time I was surrounded by a bunch of kids. It was all the more thrilling for the opportunity to share it! (This picture was borrowed from Hard-Rain’s Flickr photostream. You should go there. He has amazing photos! Click on the eagle, then browse his other shots.)
Of course, showing kids gross stuff is quite a bit of fun, too. What kid doesn’t like to see maggots crawling through the flesh of a dead animal, or a pile of bones – much further on in the decomposition process, or a pile of scat? Yes, it’s true: I get paid to show your kids piles of poo.
The best part about being a teacher/naturalist – and sticking with it at the same nature center for several years – is watching the kids grow up and develop their own passion for nature. Not every kid who comes through will do this. But the handful that do make it all worthwhile.
In a few minutes, I’ll be leaving to go birding. It’s our annual Birdathon: birding for bucks. We get people to pledge a set amount, or an amount per species. Then our “Fledgling” team goes out for a maximum of 24 hours to count as many species of birds as we can. The money we collect will be given as a scholarship.
Pictured above are my daughter Emily and her friends Liz and Karen. (And here is Karen as a teen several years later – with Emily in the dark background.) They have all been attending Audubon programs since they were much smaller than this. They will all go off to college next fall. Karen has been selected as this year’s recipient, and I couldn’t be more proud than if it were my own daughter! She plans to pursue art which is fabulous because she is an amazing artist! I hope that as she continues, she will combine her art with her passion for nature, perhaps becoming an exhibit designer??
And finally, who but a naturalist can claim that those smudges on her glasses are frog footprints? It’s a great job. Don’t tell anybody, but sometimes I can’t believe they pay me!
(My nose isn’t really that big… It’s a trick of the camera…. no… really!)