Hello from the wetlands of West Eugene! I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join WREN (Willamette Resources & Educational Network) as their environmental education specialist. When I first took on the job, I wasn’t so sure what to expect. I was a little wary of being pushed out of my comfort zone and into a full-on leadership role, and I was especially wary of being an educational leader to an ecosystem I knew very little about! The title “environmental education specialist” intimidated me. However, over the past month and a half of working here my tune has since changed and I have learned a lot and begun to feel more comfortable with the job title and its duties. I’m absorbing knowledge and experiences much like the wetland soil absorbs and retains water!
I joined WREN at a particularly busy time of the year for them when schools are still in session and teachers schedule tours of the wetlands with us almost daily. Since my start here, I have worked with over 500 students grades K-8! After shadowing a few tours, I began leading my own and quickly became accustomed to the trail and my tour guide spiel. It has been great for me to bust out of my comfort zone and regularly lead opening and closing circles of large groups and engage kids in wetland ecology. On our tours we look at frogs, snakes, soil, scat, plants, tracks, water flow, historical uses of the land and more. We change what we talk about during the tours depending on age and what the teacher has requested. Getting kids out of a classroom and into nature proves invaluable for their learning, and the teachers who come on our tours recognize this. Many teachers have remarked how certain “problem” students in the classroom seem to thrive when they come spend time with us outdoors at the wetlands. Sometimes all a kid needs is fresh air! It is so rewarding as a guide to hear children say, “Nature is so cool!” or “What a great place to learn!” or “The wetlands are full of so many cool things!” Daily, there are little rewarding nuggets such as these; reminders of why my work is important.
Beyond leading tours, I have been kept busy preparing for and running community outreach events. I helped design a paper bag puppet craft and tabled the annual Wildflower Festival where I interacted with the community and educated them on who WREN is and what we’re about. I am currently preparing crafts and outreach material for the upcoming Family Solstice event at the Natural History Museum and a Library Summer Reading Kick-Off event. It has been great connecting with the volunteers and other community members who regularly support or attend these events and others. So many of the volunteers are retired people with vast knowledge of the wetlands, environmental science, botany and beyond who generously share their time and expertise with WREN. I have learned so much from them in just the short time I have worked here, and have really enjoyed connecting with members of the community.
With the school year coming to a close, WREN’s tour season will end as well until the fall. My summer months will be filled with BLM projects at various wetland sites, community library lessons for kids, monthly community wetland wanders, interpretive trail design and more! I have enjoyed this work so much in the short time I have been here. I look forward to the upcoming months of continued learning, personal growth and community connections.