Extension in the City Success Stories
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Text Transcription: Master Naturalist
The Master Naturalist program is a joint venture between Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (formerly Texas Cooperative Extension) to develop a corps of volunteers to do outreach, public service, and education pertaining to natural resource conservation.
Cadres of volunteers are trained in natural resource management and education and then their job is to go out and educate others.
This project is a real good tie between parks and wildlife and Extension because a lot of our issues in urban areas deal with education and we don’t always have the means to get out there and easily do these programs. Where Extension, that’s what they primarily do is education, so that gives us a good avenue to work with.
It’s pretty intense, but to me, it was like reawakening the brain cells I used in college.
They sign up to go through an 8-10 week training program where they will go through 40 hours of classroom instruction. We talk about the different fauna and flora here in Dallas County, the native and indigenous species, talk about land use conservation, land use planting.
You learn general things, like bottom land hardwood floors, then you get more specific with our speakers who come in, who are people from the area and they are teaching us specifically for our ecosystem.
Once you get through the written course you have to go through and earn your hours, you have chapter hours of volunteer time.
We have volunteers who are working with children, on trail guides, we do wetland restoration, and we take the message out to local gardening clubs and talk to some of their members about things. Almost any kind of adventure where you are trying to educate people about natural resources, we’re trying to be a part of that.
Master Naturalists are really, what I like to refer to as, the cream of the crop in terms of their knowledge and experience they bring to our program.
I get a volunteer that is knowledgeable and enthusiastic and already has a lot of training in some of the subjects that we’re trying to present to the public.
We only have a very small staff and when we have Master Naturalists for volunteers, it enables us to see so many more students. We can see more buses; we can see more teachers and have more groups out here.
Last year, the North Texas Master Naturalist chapter returned 6,000 plus hours of community service, outreach and education to the citizens here in Dallas County. 6,000 volunteer hours is equivalent to three FTE positions.
We can only do so many programs in a year. The Master Naturalist has the same information we’ve got, or a lot of it, and since a lot of them are teachers, they can get into the schools; they can do a lot of those programs. So instead of only being able to hit 15 or 20 programs in a year, it allows us to hit well over 100.