Master Naturalist

A few weeks ago, I wrote about rehabilitating our youth, teaching them to connect with the natural world around them. This task is of greatest importance if we aim to raise a generation that is willing to care for the earth, and for each other. If there is any group up to the task of bridging the chasm we’ve created between people and nature, it is the Master Naturalists.  This is a group of people with a much different problem than nature deficit disorder; it is not that they don’t get enough nature, but that they can’t get enough nature! Their appetite for knowledge and exploration is tremendous and the wealth of information present in the group always leaves me stunned and hungry for more opportunities to glean from them.

Monday night, I was invited to the holiday party for the Missouri Master Naturalists, Springfield Plateau Chapter. As I witnessed the camaraderie, respect, and playful humor of the group, I felt a true sense of community and purpose in the room. Remembering the year past, members added, and some lost, the Missouri Master Naturalists warmed the room with their presence. I am amazed by the honor they pay to one another and to the earth. A quote was read at the beginning of the meeting that left the audience quietly waiting for each word. The author was a man from the Lakota tribe. He spoke of how the Lakota people spent their time resting on the ground, walking barefoot, and touching the earth. He said that too much time away from the earth makes a man’s heart hard. The man will stop caring for the earth and stop caring for other people. I can say for certain that the hearts that filled the room Monday night were soft. They are hearts that care deeply for each other, all people, and the earth.

Our partnership with the Master Naturalists certainly helps us further our mission of clean water, and opportunities to work with the naturalists are many.  Each member is required to serve forty hours volunteering in the community, a number quickly surpassed by most of them. Much of this work involves teaching students about the natural world, the Ozarks, and our resources. They are a staple at educational events, including most of our field trips here at the Watershed Center. Each of them is eager to show someone something new, or to explain something foreign to anyone who wants to ask. Their influence on young minds is diverse, from field trips, to special events, to the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems, they have surely helped to shape many paths and futures.

As we enter into the holidays, I want to say a special thank you to the Master Naturalists, Springfield Plateau Chapter. I’m humbled by the welcome, mentorship, and friendship I’ve received since I began my job here. I wish you all the best in health and happiness as we enter the New Year.

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator

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