The Foothills chapter of the Arkansas Master Naturalists is kicking off their new year of workshops. Saturday, they held a workshop at Woolly Holly State Park to teach kids of all ages how to build a birdhouse. Next Saturday, January 26, the Naturalists will hold their first yearly orientation for new Naturalists.
Recently, I asked the president of the Foothills Arkansas Master Naturalists, Larry Fliss, some questions to learn more about the organization.
Conway Scene: What does it mean to be a Master Naturalist?
Fliss: Arkansas Master Naturalists (AMN) is a corps of well-informed volunteers. A Master Naturalist is someone who has completed 40 hours of training with one of the seven chapters of the organization across the state. A certified Master Naturalist is someone who completes the training with an additional 8 hours of advanced education and volunteers 40 hours of service during the year.
The organization exists to help the public better understand the natural world and to promote the conservation and preservation of native plant and animal life and habitats.
Master Naturalists are active in many activities from creating and maintaining hiking trails to offering activities introducing children and adults to the wonders of nature, to monitoring the health of local streams. We work to keep Arkansas in its “Natural State.”
Conway Scene: How long does it take to complete your training?
Fliss: The classes for basic training for Master Naturalist status begin January 29, 2019. The Foothills chapter offers 60 hours of training classes on weekends through June 1. However, most people join AMN for the learning experiences and continue their training through advanced education. These classes and training sessions are offered at various times during the year.
Conway Scene: Who is the ideal person to become a Master Naturalist?
Fliss: The ideal Master Naturalist is someone who enjoys the wonders nature has to offer and strives to experience it through learning and outdoor activity. They will also want to provide education, outreach, and service to the natural areas within their communities so that others may enjoy their passion.
Conway Scene: What areas do the Foothills chapter of the Master Naturalists cover?
Fliss: We cover approximately 8 counties in the central Arkansas area. We will do events and programs in Russellville, Petit Jean State Park (Morrilton) and Holla Bend (Morrilton) in the western end of our area. In the central part, we will do programs in Conway, Woolly Hollow State Park (Greenbrier), Cove Creek Natural Area (Springfield) and the north fork of Cadron Creek (Twin Groves). Toward the north end of our area, we work at Southfork Nature Center (Clinton), the middle and south forks of the Little Red River (Clinton), Big Creek Natural Area (Wilburn), and Sylamore Creek (Mt. View).
Conway Scene: How do I sign up to become a Master Naturalist?
Fliss: I would encourage people to visit our website at https://wordpress.arkansasmasternaturalists.org. There you will see information under the “How do I join?” tab. Another way is to look at our calendar and visit us at one of our events or classes. You can also follow our Facebook page, Foothills Arkansas Master Naturalists, for information about how to join.
Conway Scene: What kinds of things do I learn when I sign up to be a Master Naturalist?
Fliss: The education aspect of Master Naturalists is one of the best parts. It starts with the training classes. Topics for these classes vary from year to year to keep it fresh, but this year’s classes include the Leave No Trace program, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, water quality, geology and ecoregions, invasive species, bats and fungi. Advanced education classes are offered during the year that includes archeology, FrogWatch USA, butterflies, and other pollinators, journaling and edible wild foods. This is just a small sampling of what is offered. Nature offers us so much to learn about.
Wrapping it up
We are partnering with the Foothills Arkansas Master Naturalists to give away a scholarship to go through their new member program this year. We have a post on our Facebook page that explains the details. This is a value of over $150. The first class starts next week. We will be drawing names from those that add their favorite Arkansas state park in the comments.