My Experience with the Master Naturalist Program

By Summer Dobratz, intern for the Minnesota Master Naturalist program

February 2020

Summer DobratzMy name is Summer Dobratz and I grew up in Parkers Prairie, Minnesota on a hobby farm that consists of many different animals such as beef, two ponies, chickens, ducks, turkeys, peafowl, guineas, cats, and a dog named Harley. My family also has a small farming business, which has also added to my appreciation of plants and animals. I am currently a junior at the University of Minnesota, Morris and I am majoring in elementary education with a pre-primary endorsement. Since August of 2019, I have also been a student working with the Minnesota Master Naturalist program. A lot of what I do is update the Minnesota Master Naturalist website by updating formats of powerpoints, adding resource links for users, and updating user profiles within the website, while also completing any other required tasks. 

One of my favorite tasks was to create an activity that can be done at the Bell Museum based on the book: Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart. I was able to create the materials for an activity that had visitors rating the hotness of different kinds of peppers based on the scoville heat scale. Another task that I enjoyed and learned a lot from was creating an annotated bibliography about Common Loons. I was able to compile a bunch of resources such as informational websites, video clips, teaching curriculums, and activities that teach others about the Minnesota Common Loon species. While creating this annotated bibliography, I learned about the behavior, habitat, diet, predators, and the sounds a loon makes, but most importantly I learned about how our human nature impacts the livelihood of Common Loons in Minnesota. While this task was focused on gathering information, it also educated me on how to find resources, curriculums, and activities that I could evaluate and use in my own school classroom. 

My favorite part of the program is learning about the opportunities that it provides for those who enjoy the outdoors or support learning and conserving nature. Growing up my family has been fortunate enough to visit many nature parks throughout my childhood. Little did I know that there are many wonderful workers and volunteers who have also dedicated their time and knowledge to restore and educate others when it comes to the parks that I have visited. 

I also very much enjoyed learning new skills that are preparing me for my future career as an elementary teacher. The most growth that I have noticed are my self-reliance skills, communication skills, computer skills, and information processing skills. I have been learning how to rely on myself more as I plan, prioritize, and problem-solve by using my resources to complete tasks. My communication skills have improved as I have emailed many people, which is also a skill that would become useful as a teacher. My computer skills have grown tremendously as I have learned a lot more about the work that goes into a website that manages volunteering programs, training courses, profiles, user resources, and much more. My ability to process information has also grown because of how I have needed to learn job-specific skills to complete the tasks that are required for this program.

Coming into this student working position, I did not know about the Minnesota Master Naturalist program, but it has provided me with new skills, taught me a lot, and has shown me the benefits that it provides for those in the program, volunteers, the community, and our environment. 

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