SWCD educates adults and children

Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) can offer more than just technical assistance to the public.

Many of Ohio’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts employ education specialists as part of the staff. These folks are specialists in the field of natural resource education. On behalf of the districts, they go out into the community and actively promote awareness and understanding about natural resources and conservation.

Education is just as important to the SWCDs as contour strips and no-till drills. After all, what good is a conservation practice if no one understands its purpose or proper application?

Informants

Informing the public about the importance of conservation and the role it plays today is very important to conservation districts. Education specialists work with local school districts to develop conservation and natural resource education programs.

These programs provide an opportunity for students to step out of the classroom and see real-world application of what they may learn in school.

Education specialists are experts at making this learning fun, offering hands-on activities through demonstrations, models, experiments and outdoor classroom settings which turn textbook words into visible, tangible educational opportunities. For instance, why just talk about water quality when you can take a student out into a stream and let him actually see, smell and feel the water around him?

By actively participating in a stream monitoring activity — wading into streams, getting wet and identifying organisms in the streams — students can experience what conservation is, and what it is actually like to work in the field of natural resource management.

Natural resource and conservation concerns and explanations can sometimes sound overly scientific and long winded, and can be particularly boring for students, especially in today’s technology and entertainment-driven society. By using nontraditional settings, education specialists present scientific ideas in new ways that let students experience and foster an appreciation for the outdoors and conservation in a fashion that kids enjoy.

People are generally more inclined to care about something they have experienced first hand, and first-hand experience does not come from a textbook. Check with your local SWCD and see what children’s programs they may have to offer.

Adults

Children and students are not the only group who can benefit from local education specialists, we like to work with adults as well. Education specialists offer many programs designed for adults.

Adult clients often have lots of varied interests (such as fishing, hunting and gardening), and by offering programming for adults, ideas can be explored and expanded upon, and new ways of thinking about a resource can be cultivated.

Many times, education specialists are guest speakers at local civic groups and organizations, such as Lions clubs, Rotary, garden clubs, senior citizens groups, church groups and many others. These groups, are also active in the community and are great allies in spreading the conservation message.

No matter what the organization, education specialists are always happy to talk about the benefits of conservation and the natural world.

Some education specialists even offer mini classes or workshops on a host of natural resource topics, from rain gardens, attracting backyard wildlife or even environmentally-friendly practices. As an education specialist myself, I personally have had the privilege of meeting and speaking with lots people about conservation, and I love hearing, “I didn’t know that!”

For many, nature is a mystery, and often something to be avoided or even feared. Providing an opportunity to see the natural world in a new light often results in a whole new level of interest for people.

By speaking with adults and children, I can offer everybody a chance to ask questions and get answers they may have had a hard time solving on their own. And if I can’t answer your question, I will find someone who can.

SWCDs get multiple calls every day from folks with questions or concerns about conservation practices or natural resource issues. Once again, check with your local SWCD.

Help

You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how we can help you. Ultimately, the role of the education specialist is to let people know what we do and how we do it, but most importantly, why we do the things that we do. By helping people understand the reason and importance of conservation, we can eventually effect a positive change in the way people do things, and learn better methods of accomplishing what they set out to do.

The education specialist is just one link in the conservation chain. Our job helps highlight the hard work that the Soil and Water Conservation Districts do. Don’t hesitate to call us.

If you need a speaker for an event, are a teacher interested in a class program, or if you simply have a question, call. We can all work together to ensure a better understanding of our natural world, and how we can enjoy it for a long, long time to come.

About the Author

John Boilegh is the Environmental Education Coordinator for the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. He holds an associate degree in wildlife from Hocking Technical College, and a bachelor of science in anthropology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Born and raised in Jefferson County, John is an avid outdoorsman. More Stories by John Boilegh

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