Junior master naturalist students catch aquatic organisms at John Bunker Sands Wetland Center in Seagoville. Photos courtesy of Maura Reed.
Aug. 6, 2019
Some North Texans cap off a lifelong interest in the environment by becoming Texas Master Naturalists. These seasoned volunteers go on to serve as effective stewards of DFW’s ecosystems.
Two local environmental educational centers decided - why not start that training young?
Students test water quality at John Bunker Sands Wetland Center in Seagoville.
According to Mary Meuth, assistant state coordinator for the Texas Master Naturalist program, there is not a statewide Junior Master Naturalist Program. However many Texas Master Naturalist Chapters have organized their own junior programs.
“Texas Master Naturalists chapters with junior programs, all of which look differently and are scheduled differently, include the Lost Pines Chapter, Good Water Chapter, Galveston Bay Area Chapter.”
The Coppell program is the brainchild of North Texas Master Naturalist Judy Parson who encouraged Coppell’s Biodiversity Education Center to offer it to area youth.
Junior master naturalist students look for reptiles and amphibians during a herpetology field trip.
Classes in Coppell start Sept. 16 and go through mid-June. The 15 slots available are now filled. However, you can add your name to the waitlist in case of cancellations.
The Perot Museum also offers a Junior Master Naturalist Program, which will be held starting Sept. 27 and run through May. Registration is now open.
Maura Reed, coordinator for the Biodiversity Education Center, shares key facts about the Coppell program, which is in its second year.
Students build aspirators to catch insects during an entomology class.
Reed, a certified master naturalist, says the adult program is similar to the youth program in the themes that are addressed.
“For instance, on Oct. 21, the Junior Naturalist Master Program focuses on geology. The class studies specific geological aspects, then, on Oct. 26, there is a related field trip to Benbrook Spillway. Each month, there is an environmental theme (seven different ones) ranging from geology to herpetology with associated field trips. There are five field trips in the adult program.”
Curriculum wise, the adult and youth programs follow each other but the manner in which youth are taught is much easier to understand. For example, they offer a more hands-on approach through field trips and opportunities to explore.
Kids examine the teeth of a skull for clues to determine what animal it belongs to.
Reed explains that each theme presents different engaging activities. In geology, the history of North Texas involves looking at fossils that actually lived millions of years ago. Some fossils are donated and some were found at the Coppell Nature Park, adjacent to the Biodiversity Education Center.
On Feb. 10, class emphasis is on aquatics. A field trip to John Bunker Sands Wetland Center follows on Feb. 22.
“That is actually a pretty cool place,” says Reed. “It’s a wetland center where you can test the water, hunt for small aquatic organisms, etc.”
Reed informs that Cynthia Contreras, a city of Coppell staff member, is in charge of the Junior Master Naturalist Program and the sole staff member.
“Consequently, we rely on our docent volunteers who have a little bit more training or background knowledge to help.”
Graduates of the Junior Master Naturalist Program aren’t obligated to volunteer but they are apprised of the fact that once they commit to the program and become involved, one way of volunteering is mentoring new students.
“For this upcoming class, we invite last year’s youth graduates to help mentor. But they are not required.”
DFW Junior Master Naturalist Programs
About: Guided by North Texas Master Naturalist volunteers, these two local programs are individually developed. They each combine engaging classroom training with inspiring field-based discovery to help young people develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of Texas' ecosystems.
Ages: Grades 4-6
•Coppell’s Biodiversity Center, Sept. 16-June 16, $135/residents, $145/nonresidents. The class is full but you can add your name to the waitlist in case of cancellations. More info.
•The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Sept. 27-May 9, Two classes sessions: 3-4:30pm, 6-7:30pm; $180/nonmembers, $160/members. More info.