2019 Volunteer Naturalist Class
By Jennifer Robins

The 2019 Volunteer Naturalist training class underwent some significant changes from previous years. The first change is the title of our class. The Community Education Committee, with the approval of the Board of Directors, changed our volunteers’ title from Docent to Volunteer Naturalist. Seeing that other environmental organizations have made this change, we recognized that docent carries more arts and cultural connotations and the public is more familiar with the term Naturalist when it comes to environmental education. The second change was to lengthen the class from 6 to 8 weeks. We added some additional topics and expanded the time to allow our new naturalists to feel comfortable talking about the tremendous amount of information offered in the class.

The third change was updating the Training Manual to reflect all the ways an Amigos Naturalist-led tour helps educators meet Next Generation Science Standards that have been adopted by 26 states. The Lead State Partners collaborated with educational associations and the National Research Council to develop the Next Generation Science Standards which help students better understand core scientific concepts, the scientific process of developing and testing ideas, and to have a greater ability to evaluate scientific evidence. Over the summer of 2018, student volunteer intern Raquel Friedmann reviewed our educational materials and identified all the areas our tours address scientific concepts in the NGSS. She then created talking points by grade level for each section of the training manual based on the NGSS as well as identified the specifics in our Educator’s Guide which was also recently revised.

After a delay caused by rain and the closure of Pacific Coast Highway, the class started on February 7 with eleven students. The students have varied backgrounds and interests: high school students, college students and graduates, retired teachers, a horticulturalist, and volunteers at a variety of organizations. We are fortunate to have people so interested in learning more about Bolsa Chica and teaching others to appreciate the wetlands and the environment.

The class presentations were Elissa Warantz for Birds, Brian Westcott for History, Kelly O’Reilly for Fish and Invertebrates, Kim DiPasquale for Native Wetland Plants, Vic Leipzig for Ecology, Matthew Teutimez (Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians) for Native American cultural accomplishments, and Jim Robins for Bolsa Chica Restoration. Jill Lemon, FLOW Program Manager, explained how volunteers can become Citizen Scientists and teach school groups about the importance of phytoplankton. Jerry Donohue explained public and private tour procedures, and gave tips and suggestions based on his long experience as both naturalist and science teacher. Facilitating the class and providing support were Tom Anderson, Kim DiPasquale, Jennifer Robins, Jim Robins and Bill Stern. The class concluded March 28 with the distribution of name badges and Certificates of Completion, and a pizza dinner. We are happy to welcome eleven new Naturalists into the world!

Naturalist class photo The Amigos 2019 Naturalist Class from left: Cory Butler, Catherine Navetta, Laura Lopez, Monica Gonzalez, Susanne Salcido, Sharon Von Dollen,
Jack Scully, Karen Belville, Daniel Fillet and Linda Fillet. Not pictured, Alejandro Navarro. Photo by Thomas Anderson.