- Author: Gregory Ira
I'm guessing most of us would much rather explore a new trail, identify a new plant, or marvel at the colors reflecting off a hummingbird's gorget than ask someone for money.
We often associate asking for money with jobs and careers that many of us might have intentionally avoided. I remember a conversation with my grandfather, when I told him I enjoyed environmental education because I wasn't comfortable with the idea of sales. He reminded me that even good ideas didn't just happen; they still had to be to be pitched. We can see this today when even a life-saving vaccine needs some promotion.
Luckily, the California Naturalist program makes it easy, because there are so many good reasons to support the program. We fundraise, because our program...
- Provides important services. The California Naturalist and Climate Stewards certification courses we've developed address a growing demand from the public. In addition we help our partners evaluate their courses, track volunteer service, and train new instructors.
- Has so much work to do to reach every adult in California. That includes the person in Visalia who wants to take our course, the partners in Redding who are ready to teach our course, and the communities in Stockton and El Centro looking for a local course they can join. Gifts allow us to provide scholarships in the form of fee waivers for participants with a financial need.
- Addresses pressing needs. Including the loss of biodiversity, ongoing threats from climate change, and the spread of invasive species.
- Can always be improved. No program is perfect and maintaining a high quality course requires continuous improvement.
- Deserves a sustainable source of funding. Funding that is not subject to the whims of economic cycles and fluctuations.
These are all good reasons for a program to fundraise. But the most important reason is because our program has value. There is value to the participants, whose lives are transformed by their experience. There is value generated from over 35,000 hours of volunteer service estimated at over $1 million annually. And, finally, there is a broader public value that accrues to our communities, our society, and our state through the cumulative impact of decisions and actions of thousands of people that help make our communities more sustainable, resilient, and vibrant.
Our community of naturalists and stewards are already committed to giving. They give their time and their talent in the service of their community and environment. Ask them what they get in return and they'll probably just smile a knowing smile and reflect on a special trail, a flash of iridescent color, or the shared excitement of a child that's made a new discovery. We fundraise for all the reasons above and to bring that same knowing smile to even more faces across the state. The UC California Naturalist Program thanks you for your ongoing generosity. Whether your contributions come in the form of intellectual labor, sweat equity, or through a financial contribution, your efforts are appreciated.
We are gearing up for our annual "Big Dig" fundraiser on Friday, June 4. Please consider making a donation to help us sustain our program.
- Author: Eliot Freutel
Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps receive the Corps Network's Project of the Year Award.
Our California Naturalist partners at Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps were recently honored for their work making the national parks and public lands of the Inland Empire more accessible to the communities that frequent these areas. In 2018, UCC members surveyed Spanish-speaking community members and the results showed that these community members were left out of learning and recreation opportunities due to a lack of representation and a lack of language support. With funding from the National Forest Foundation and support from bilingual instructor Claudia P. Diaz Carrasco (UC ANR Cooperative Extension Riverside Co.) and the UCC's own Gaby Nunez, the first bi-lingual California Naturalist program, Los Naturalistas, was born.
Meeting every Saturday for 4 months, the original cohort of 12 corps-members learned to interpret their parks and open spaces: Translated materials, various teaching methods, a diverse and multi-lingual expert speaker pool, and culturally relevant content were all deployed to ensure that the cohort was ready to address their audience. All 12 emerged as Los Naturalistas with their California Naturalist certifications, ready to make positive changes in environmental justice and access to public spaces for their community through nature and language interpretation.
The Corps-Network's 2020 Project of the Year award highlights Corps-member's work across the nation. This year, Los Naturalistas share the honor with one program that focuses on pollinators and 2 others working to break down barriers for differently abled & LGBTQ+ Corps-members. The takeaway is that empowering young people to represent and advocate for their communities yields incredible and innovative results. As more and more CalNat courses look towards bilingual delivery, we envision a network that represents the true demographic make-up of our diverse state.
- Author: greg ira
Unprecedented is an increasingly common adjective these days. It should be no surprise that unprecedented times often inspire unprecedented responses. Volunteer service by California Naturalists is no exception. For example, the most recently certified class of 12 California Naturalists at Sonoma Ecology Center completed capstone service learning projects ranging from creating wildflower guides and making native plant nursery labels, to facilitating new nature-themed webinars and participating in on-line community and citizen science projects. All this, accomplished with stringent SIP orders and a complete shutdown of local parks and open spaces.
Traditionally, California Naturalist volunteer service falls into four categories:interpretation/
To support the efforts of our partners and California Naturalists, we encourage naturalists with the capacity to continue volunteering to explore new forms of volunteer service that don't involve direct contact with others. This may include at home, online, or over-the-phone activities. In addition, the program will recognize un-paid service with a wider community lens that exemplifies the new Community Resilience and Adaptation category. Some examples include helping to create online natural history lessons or virtual experiences, donating blood, supporting a community hotline, supporting contact tracing, sewing face masks, or calling to check in on neighbors and helping them run essential errands. While any form of volunteer service involves some level of risk, when a simple conversation becomes a potential public health threat we are in uncharted territory. Organizations that engage California Naturalists as volunteers are following local guidance and making adjustments to ensure volunteer safety. We support those efforts. In the end, each individual California Naturalist must weigh their abilities, personal risks, and the benefits of volunteer service.
The California Naturalist program does not require volunteer service to maintain certification, but it does incentivize service with an annual service pin (Those that logged 40+ hours last year haven't missed out- 2019 Pins haven't gone out yet due to COVID-related delays on the manufacturing end). These new categories of service and the increased flexibility to recognize safer options to contribute to community resilience reflect changing priorities, the needs of California Naturalists, and the challenges facing the communities we live in and serve.
Staying meaningfully and safely engaged can provide benefits beyond the community and the environment. As many of us seek to develop coping mechanisms to reduce stress, anxiety, and build a sense of purpose, volunteering can help buffer these challenges and connect us more deeply.
With gratitude for all you do, be well and do good.
UC California Naturalist and our UC Agriculture & Natural Resources statewide program partner Project Learning Tree (PLT) have joined forces to offer a series of workshops in 2020.
Project Learning Tree uses trees and forests as windows on the world to increase students' understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it. Since 1976, PLT has reached 138 million students and trained 765,000 educators to help students learn how to think, not what to think about complex environmental issues.
PLT's professional development helps educators learn how to integrate environmental education into their teaching and become comfortable teaching outdoors—in urban, suburban, and rural environments. Workshops and online courses teach educators how best to use PLT's instructional materials with their own students in their own setting and how to engage with (and draw upon) their community in learning about and taking action to address local environmental issues. Continuing education credits are available in most states.
In-person trainings include one-day workshops, in-service days, a series of classes spread throughout a semester, week-long institutes, and other sustained and intensive models. These events are planned and conducted by certified facilitators and customized for specific grade levels, topics, and teaching situations. While we love the in-person contact time when facilitating these workshops, an online course can be completed in your own time, wherever you are. The courses for early childhood, K-8, and becoming a GreenSchool include demonstration videos, simulations, planning exercises, and state-specific resources. Learn more.
The second event took place on March 4 at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden, as day two of a California Naturalist new instructor workshop. New instructors from Bolsa Chica Conservancy, Nature For All, Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, and Community Nature Connection, plus a handful of our existing partners including the Catalina Island Conservancy and the Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps participated.
Join us to learn about ways to integrate this award-winning curriculum into your programs and teaching. These upcoming events are co-led and sponsored by California Naturalist.
- Author: Gregory Ira
Gratitude, like all good things, is cultivated. For much of the year, we are running from one deadline to the next and the time for reflection is scarce. Thanksgiving is one of the few times during the year when the conditions and context put gratitude squarely on our table and it feels delightful. But, what if there was a way for us to experience that same feeling of gratitude all year long?
Can our work as California Naturalists help us rediscover gratitude with greater intention? As naturalists we share a few traits that might help us. We value the natural world, we seek to observe it, we reflect on our experiences, and we often share our wonder and discoveries with others. I would argue that these are also important elements of gratitude – especially sharing.
For many California Naturalists, sharing comes in the form of volunteer service. If we reframe this service as not simply giving time, but giving thanks, we can cultivate gratitude. Whether you volunteer as a California Naturalist, share your discoveries and experiences with friends and family, or give to a cause that has special meaning to you, you are not only providing a service to others, you expressing gratitude and extending the best tradition from the third Thursday of November.
On behalf of our entire CalNat team, please accept our most sincere thanks for making the UC California Naturalist Program a part of your world.