Tiny Trekkers: Growing Master Naturalists
In 2005, four Master Naturalists began the program known as Tiny Trekkers. We wanted to give parents an opportunity to get their kids outside — an alternative to walking the mall. We wanted them to know where they could find pockets of nature in the city. Most of all, we wanted children to grow up loving and caring for our natural world. And the earlier, the better!
Tiny Trekkers is a preschool hiking group that takes a themed walk once a month at stroller friendly parks. We accept children from birth to age five. Stroller babies (our youngest was three weeks old!), who simply enjoy the fresh air and sounds of nature, grow up to be real “naturalists” who can tell you the difference between dragonflies and damselflies and how to avoid poison ivy.
So, what do we do on our walks? We feed turtles. We catch bugs and butterflies. We see fallen trees becoming soil. We find infinite variations in wildflowers. We make bird feeders. We feed ducks. We eat seeds. We read stories. We draw with chalk rock. And sometimes, like the proverbial bear, we just go “to see what we can see!
It is delightful to watch a child who had been previously afraid of bugs now squat down to follow a pill bug across the sidewalk. It is amazing for all of us when we see, not one, but three armadillos cross our path! Snakes, lizards, feathers, acorn caps – you name it – are all new experiences for young children, and we get to share the wonder with them.
Parents have as much fun as the children. Many of them loved nature as children and want to pass that love on to their own, but some are as new to nature as the children themselves. One February walk, a mother exclaimed, “This is the first time I have ever heard a woodpecker pecking!” Our gifted team of volunteers use their expertise to answer the many questions asked by parents.
With only word-of-mouth advertising, our numbers are growing. We have had as many as 30 children on our walks. If you enjoy being with small children, and want to get out and “play” in nature, you may want to consider earning some volunteer time with the Tiny Trekkers. There is nothing so rewarding as a 3-yr-old coming up to you with no prompting from his parent to say, “Thank you. I had the bestest time ever!”
For more information about the Tiny Trekker program, please contact
Sandy Stinson at firstname.lastname@example.org