After volunteering as an interpreter at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, Kristin Swartzentruber remembered her favorite part of that work was helping kids connect with nature. When her oldest child started kindergarten in Vermont, she reached out to the Four Winds coordinator at Beeman Elementary School to learn more about The Nature Program.

Kristin started volunteering with Four Winds in August 2017. One year ago she chose to take on the coordinator role in New Haven and hasn’t looked back since. Her enthusiasm for Four Winds has only grown with her involvement. 

“It’s really hard to narrow down what I like most about Four Winds because there is so much that I appreciate,” she said. Because of her curiosity about the natural world, she enjoys the monthly trainings provided for volunteers.

“It’s fun to be with other adults learning about owls, snowflakes, tracking, etc. We get so excited to share what we learned with our kids.”

Kristin enjoys going into the classroom with the knowledge imparted to her from each monthly training. Being with her child and his classmates throughout their elementary years by participating as a Four Winds volunteer, has been a highlight for her. In her mind, the outside time that The Nature Program provides for the students is incredibly valuable. 

“I love that this program exists. It is imperative that our children learn about the earth and be curious about it so that they can help us take care of it.”

Kristin has many favorite memories as a Four Winds volunteer, including dissecting owl pellets this past year. Although some students initially didn’t want to be involved in the activity, they became interested when they saw other kids around them starting to find bones in the pellets! 

“All of the grades did it and loved it,” she shared. “Most kids chose to bring the bones home and couldn’t wait to share what they learned with their families.”

Having volunteered for multiple years in the program, studying Structure and Function with the students was a favorite topic of hers, especially exploring the owl section. Dissecting owl pellets was an activity that could have captivated the students for hours. The experience of petting the soft owl legs and wings allowed the students to use their observation skills in a hands-on setting, an important component of The Nature Program. 

Kristin believes that volunteering with Four Winds is a great way to get involved in your child’s education. Though you don’t need to have kids in the school to become one. Interested community members that appreciate nature get involved by volunteering at her school, as well.

“Some people are nervous about volunteering because they don’t know how to teach science to kids and most of us don’t, but [Four Winds] prepares us so well and provides us with resources so any of us can do it. It’s a great program and my children and I have benefited from it.”

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