Reap rewards of sharing nature with children


By Becky Gillette

Special to The SUN

Back in the day, weekends and vacations for school-age children meant long days playing outside — riding bikes, climbing trees, jumping in puddles or building a fort in the woods.

For today’s kids, life is different: on average, Americans 18-and-under spend 90 percent of their time indoors, and five to 15 hours each day looking at an electronic screen.

Over the last six years, Audubon Rockies (formerly Audubon Colorado) has trained more than 50 adults to help combat this screen-centered lifestyle through Four Mile Ranch Environmental Education. Our Volunteer Educators lead easy hikes and activities that ignite enthusiasm and foster appreciation for the natural world.

It’s simple to be a volunteer educator — if you can hike on primitive trails in hilly terrain, and you have a love for children and nature, you’re qualified! All you need to do is attend four training sessions, and lead at least five student programs during the six-week season. You can pick the dates that are best for you to work — programs are held on school days from Sept. 10-Oct. 18.

In the words of past volunteers, here are a few reasons why Four Mile Ranch volunteering is both personally rewarding and an important contribution to make to the Pagosa community:

“The spark of interest and enthusiasm in a child’s eyes. Re-awakening your own natural curiosities. The camaraderie of the volunteers. The endless variety of nature’s secrets revealed. Being part of a constructive, long-range effort to improve the depth and breadth of local education about our natural world.

“Small children are the anchors of the future. Being with children in the woods, I feel like I have actually done something that matters. It is amazingly fulfilling.

“Working with kids outdoors is as good as it gets. Stay in touch with the young and you too will stay young.

“It is only scary before you do it. You’ll love it after the first time.

“There isn’t a good reason not to do it: You benefit, the kids benefit, and the habitat benefits.”

One volunteer came across a quote from Garrison Keillor, that to her, said it all: “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”

To learn more, attend the optional orientation presentation tonight, Aug. 15, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the East Tile Room at Ross Aragon Community Center. Volunteer training will be held Aug. 27-28 and Sept. 4-5.

To become a volunteer educator, contact Becky Gillette at 883-3066 or