U of MN Extension

Minnesota Master Naturalist: Reflecting on the First Ten Years

Amy Rager, Extension Educator, Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Education

May 2016

North ShoreMeasuring the impact of a program as diverse and wide as the Master Naturalist program can be difficult.  Extension Educator, and Master Naturalist program director, Amy Rager, asked a few of the graduates from the very first 'Big Woods, Big Rivers' course taught in 2005:  What has it meant for you to be a Minnesota Master Naturalist?  How has it changed your thinking or behavior?  What is your favorite memory of being a Master Naturalist volunteer?

Their answers provide insight into the unquantifiable life –changing aspects of being in nature, the positive change that impacts the state of Minnesota and the joy experienced by people doing something meaningful and long-lasting.

Deb Lewis wrote that the program gave her “multiple opportunities to connect with amazingly talented and like-minded individuals, many of whom have become my very good friends.  I have a great sense of pride that I am a part of this wonderful program.  It is a huge learning experience.”

Bruce Gravelle says, “I see myself slowing down more when I am outside and observing more of what is going on around me.  This program has given me a place to volunteer doing something that I enjoy.”

Russ Edmunds wrote from Indiana:  “Going through the class gave more confidence in public speaking and in handling larger groups of people.  I routinely take groups of 10-12 middle school students to sample invertebrates in a local stream as a part of the Hoosier Riverwatch program.”  Even though Russ left Minnesota for Indiana six years ago, he said that the Master Naturalist program motivated him to continue volunteering.  He comes back to Minnesota on vacation and volunteers at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory:  “It’s nice to see the program has continued to produce more trained volunteers.”

Field TripDavid Schmidt answered Amy’s request while on vacation with his wife, Sara, also a Master Naturalist volunteer, from Texas.  “We wanted to visit Texas as it was one of the states you patterned our Master Naturalist program after,” he wrote.  “Becoming a Master Naturalist volunteer is what really got me going. What I’m involved in now is because of the confidence I gained taking that first class.  Not only have I been a Master Naturalist volunteer for 10 years, but I hit my 10 year anniversary with the Park Service last fall as well.  I’m much more of a conservationist now.  That’s part maturity, awareness and education- some which came with Master Naturalist training.”

“Being a Minnesota Master Naturalist,” said Kathy Smith, “has meant making connections with the naturalists community here, both volunteer and professional. Being in the first class felt like the start of something really good.  Amy and the staff have done a tremendous job with the Minnesota Master Naturalists.”

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