DNERR logo

Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve

Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  RSS Feed


DNERR Volunteers Go “Back to School”

Written on: September 14th, 2015 in Education & OutreachGuest BlogResearchSt. Jones ReserveVolunteers

To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the reserve.  The guest blog is brought to you by M.L. Christmas and her recent experience attending our annual volunteer recognition event.  Enjoy! (Maggie Pletta, DNERR Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

DNERR Volunteers Go “Back to School”

Photo Credit Britani Chambers, DNERR

Photo Credit Britani Chambers, DNERR

On DNERR’s recent Volunteer Appreciation Night, several dozen of us gathered to humbly receive our DNERR-logo t-shirts and official certificates of appreciation; participate in some lighthearted games; hear the insights of the outgoing interns who were returning to their respective institutions of higher learning; chat and banter with each other over crudité, meat and cheese trays, fruit and dessert trays, and other light refreshments; and just generally bask in the glow of being DNERR volunteers.

Volunteering for DNERR provides a great way to give back to the community and is its own reward. But some of that positive energy may return to the volunteer, even beyond the t-shirt and the recognition certificate. During the six months, or so, that I have been guest-blogging for DNERR, already that effort, freely given, has “repaid” me in unexpected life-lessons:

  • (Re)learning to draw — Drawing outdoor scenes with sketchpad and pencils
  • (Re)learning to paddle — Canoeing on Blackbird Creek
  • (Re)learning how to make a craft — Scissors, Glue & Construction Paper 101

You might not think that last one is much of an accomplishment, but I beg to differ.

On Volunteer Appreciation Night, for one portion of the evening we were led into DNERR’s research laboratory for an exercise that was part craft and part quiz show about estuarine flora and fauna. Each of the lab’s workstations was outfitted with a small pile of goodies: school glue, construction paper, pipe cleaners, small bundles of raffia, animal stickers, paper plates, etc. The supplies were not for an incoming grade-school field-trip (although the exercise being demonstrated was ultimately for that purpose). The materials were for us. The adults. To use right then. Talk about feeling helpless! Am I smarter than a 5th grader? Debatable. But at that moment, a kindergartener could have run rings around me. Very artistic rings, mind you.

One thing I have learned in life is that if you are bad at something, making a joke about it will usually cover the worst of its shortcomings. So here is a little joke told at my own expense. I challenge you to identify the pipe-cleaner-constructed object to which I am pointing. Hint: It’s precariously perched and seemingly on the verge of falling over into the raffia “marsh grass.” A further hint? It has walls but yet is open and airy. Final hint: It’s near the St. Jones Reserve. Got it? No? Answer: It’s Kingston-Upon-Hull, of course! Hee hee! Utter silliness! And while you were busy chuckling, you weren’t noticing the lack of decorative technique displayed on my paper plate. Perhaps if I had spent more time, in my formative years, using school paste for its intended purpose instead of eating it….

Had not thought about this before that night at DNERR, but one’s inner child is the other volunteer who’s volunteering when one volunteers to volunteer. That is why one should always keep that school-student can-do attitude. So, on Volunteer Appreciation Night, while DNERR’s college interns were returning to school, the rest of the volunteers were also going “back to school” by being challenged with basic craft supplies.

That is one of the fun aspects of volunteering at DNERR: You never know what will happen next! In the process, you just might (re)discover your inner child. Pass the paste, please!

Photo by Britani Chambers, DNERR
Text by M.L. Christmas

M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She has written dozens of articles for newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and websites. Her work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications and other venues, and she has written in tones ranging from scholarly to humorous, depending on the audience. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. Her approach to nature writing, she says, is part Henry David Thoreau and part Dave Barry.

Tags: , ,