In the tradition of Johnny Appleseed, John Muir, and even Teddy Roosevelt, naturalists continue to contribute to sustainability and a greener world. On the last Saturday of August, 2009, yet another group of Master Naturalists graduated, many of whom were seniors. Texas alone has over 5000 such naturalists who have logged over a million volunteer hours.
Another Texas Master Naturalist Class Graduates
The meeting room of the Heartwood Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists is filled with posters and nature displays as people from all walks of life file in for the event. Some have driven quite a distance to Montgomery County’s W. G. Jones State Forest for the occasion. Many wear the forest green shirt of the Texas Master Naturalists. Some wear pins which represent valuable volunteer hours they’ve given to the community.
Before the ceremony, several make fascinating presentations of about ten minutes or so. After about an hour of talking about what they all love most, there is a break to prepare for the graduation.
Upon reconvening, the past-president Teri McMasters began to speak. She gave heartfelt words of encouragement to those who were graduating, and to those who were close to graduating but needed to finish some more volunteer hours. These intern naturalists were reminded not to give up, to stay with it, come to meetings, and use their presence and expertise to make a difference in their communities.
Then the presentations begin. One after another, people receive their certificates and a dragonfly pin to signify their accomplishments during the training period. Additional recognition is given to those who performed 80 hours of volunteer service, exceeding the 40 hours required by the program.
Who Are Master Naturalists From Texas or Other States?
They are a happy group of people who love nature and want to do what they can to protect and cherish it. They come from all walks of life including:
- State foresters
- Seniors who are still active in the workforce
- Retirees who have more time to follow their dreams and give back to society and nature
- Environmental education specialist
- Forest rangers
- People from retail sales or other jobs unrelated to nature
- Even a few young people
They span the spectrum from minimal education to advanced degrees. The one thing they have in common is a love for nature and a desire to pass on information about how to take care of the environment for a greener earth. They are adults working in the community to conserve natural resources and provide education and service programs.
Master naturalist programs are affiliated with universities, forestry programs, natural history museums, parks and wildlife departments, and state extension agencies, depending on which state one is in. They have provided over $20 million worth of volunteer work in Texas alone.
Volunteer Activities a Master Naturalist Performs
- Children’s Museum wildlife activities. A recent one had: snakes, newly hatched chicks, spitting Madagascar roaches and nature/wildlife coloring.
- Helping save hummingbirds during Hurricane Ike
- Sustainable landscaping and gardening
- Rainwater education and projects
- Excitedly sharing pictures or videos of plants and animals in a natural habitat
- Nature appreciation – plants, animals, water, and ecology in general
- Design and consultation in making a nature trail
- Field trips for students at locations across the state
- How to garden events
- Nature lectures and presentations. Recent ones were about butterflies and hummingbirds, squirrels, gardening for the birds and bees, a pollination garden, and why one should love nature.
How to Become a Master Naturalist
Although there are programs in many states, Texas offers training in 18 different regions of the state. It involves six months of classwork done every other Saturday for six hours each time. A wealth of information is covered in a number of areas of nature study.
Participants also log 40 volunteer hours to achieve the Texas Master Naturalist level. During this initial training time, they are referred to as interns. After graduation, they continue both volunteering and taking advanced training hours to maintain their certification. They also go to monthly meetings of their chapter as part of their required advanced training to continue their interests in nature and learn ways to participate in the community toward a greener living space for all.
Seniors, Boomers and others who are Master Naturalists promote awareness and responsibility for natural resources. They continually learn about sustainability and share their knowledge and expertise with others in their communities.