New docents at Bouverie Preserve
It’s hardly a secret that one of my favorite places on earth is the 535 acres of the Bouverie Preserve. It’s not just the natural beauty that attracts me. It is the mission of that preserve and how it affects the future.
A main focus of the Bouverie Preserve’s education program is to “connect children and adults with our local landscapes, opening them to the wonder, excitement and mystery of the natural world. This connection inspires a desire to protect, to pass on what they learn to others, to become more ecologically literate, and to act with foreknowledge and care in their personal lives and communities.” Simply stated, the Bouverie inspires love of nature that leads to protection of the land.
Each year more than 3,000 third- and fourth-grade students from schools in Sonoma and Napa county visit the preserve to learn about nature through first-hand experiences. In small groups of five or six students with one chaperone from their school, the children are led on three-hour hikes by a trained docent.
Along the way, they can touch newts, observe ants, watch birds, examine scat, identify flowers and so much more. It awakens them to the excitement and beauty of nature, instilling a sense of belonging to that greater world. Many of the students who visit the preserve experience their first excursion into a nature, and that can be life-changing. For the children and for their guides.
In order to engage these young visitors, the preserve trains and supports a large contingent of volunteer teachers, called docents. For those teachers, the path to becoming docents is a 22-week training program. Hence, they become competent lay naturalists able to convey their knowledge to children. Of course, there are Saturday Nature Hikes for visiting adults, but it is the children’s programs that give many docents the thrill of influencing the future. Because, what one loves, one protects. Instilling even if that tiny seed of nature-awareness helps ensure the next generation will protect our environment.
Last February, the Bouverie Preserve celebrated the completion of those 22 weeks of classes for a new group of 32 docents. On a beautiful day, with the sky a deep cerulean dimpled with rising cumulus, the earth a vibrant glowing green, the docents were honored.
Today, I’m going to name the preserve staff and committee members who nurtured and trained this group. Next week, I’ll share the names of all the graduates and include a few words from the moving speech given by one of them.
The 2012 Bouverie docent class training co-chairs were Phillip Carlsen, Barbara Ramsey and Sharon Savage. Mentors for this class of graduates included Chair Judy Weiner, Janet Bosshard, Donna Chinlund, Sharon Dankworth, Bill English, Anne W. Goodwin, Leigh Hall, Carole Kelleher, Pamela Kerr, Mary Neuer Lee, Nancy Lilly, Jim Moir, Gerry Mugele, Susan Nestor, Pat O’Brien, Ray Rapp, Cara Wasden, Jane Wellington and Carol Wood.
Of course, the core of this excellent program includes the Bouverie Preserve staff: John Petersen, chief operating officer of Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR, Bouverie’s parent organization); Beth Gurney, ACR director of education; Nancy Trbovich, manager of the Bouverie Preserve; Jennifer Potts, resident ecologist; Jeanne Wirka, resident biologist; and John Martin, land steward. They are also aided by Gwen Heistand, resident biologist at Martin Griffin Preserve.
All of these folks are dedicated, giving, excellent teachers, mentors, and role models. Many are experts with notable abilities to make us lay folks understand, and many are my friends and people I most admire. I congratulate them all for another year of influencing the future of our land and children.
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