By Leana Thompson, Senior, Natural Sciences

“Are you passionate about nature, science, or education?” I read on a green flyer on campus.

“Yes,” I thought.

“Do you seek to inspire the next generation to understand & care for our planet?”

“Yes!”

“The Institute for Sustainable Development Outdoor Classroom NEEDS INTERNS!”

“YES!” I immediately wrote the date of an intern meeting listed on the flyer into my planner.

The fateful day I saw that flyer was nearly two years ago now and I’ve made many fond memories since with the Outdoor Classroom and the CSU, Chico ecological reserves where they take place. When I started with the Outdoor 2Classroom, we hosted field trips for third and fourth graders. Interns led third-grade students between four modules at Butte Creek Ecological Preserve. Third-grade modules included a Maidu Native American station, bird banding, Each One-Teach One native plant station and native turtle module.

Fourth-grade trips were held at Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve and included a Maidu station, bird banding, a nature hike and an archeology station. I was hooked from the very first trip! Seeing the kids’ faces light up when they became little archeological explorers, released a bird, or learned how to make baskets with local Maidu tribe members let me know I was part of something amazing. I felt like a little kid again as I learned along with them. The knowledge that I was instrumental in providing these children with a hands-on, minds-on learning experience was so fulfilling, and I wanted to be as involved as possible.

The Reserves staff was completely supportive of my enthusiasm, and since my first day, I have had the joy of being involved in many capacities. As an intern coordinator for the Outdoor Classroom, I gained leadership skills, met like-minded peers and even got to be involved in assessing and developing modules.

1Interested in sharing the value of nature with people of all ages, I became involved in the reserves’ Hike Program. I earned class credit through an environmental literacy internship assisting the education and research coordinator extend the spring hike series through summer and fall. As a land stewardship intern I had the opportunity to work on restoration projects on the reserves, learning hands on about ecology and land management.

As a natural sciences major in the science education department, I found these internships invaluable in giving me experience in outdoor education, science, and leadership. Overall, I’ve learned more about the natural environment and how to effectively communicate its value to others in my time with the reserves than in any classroom setting.

The CSU, Chico Ecological Reserves are available to students as living laboratories for research and exploration of outdoor education, biology, geology, anthropology, and history, among others. Anyone interested in visiting the reserves can do so via the Reserve’s Naturalist Outings Series or Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserves Hunt Program, or as individuals, as both the reserve and preserve are open to public access.