Thanks for your interest- good volunteers are very important at Oxley Nature Center! There are several ways that you can help. Your schedule can be very flexible, but once your hours are on the planning calendar, we'll be depending on you to lead that tour or take care of visitors' questions for that shift. If your schedule won’t allow advance planning, we can talk about what kind of volunteer work would be least disrupted by last-minute changes. Look over the job descriptions here, and let us know which task you'd like to take on.
The people who conduct tours are called "volunteer naturalists." They work on weekday mornings with school groups, after attending a six-part training. The training emphasizes methods and techniques rather than facts and names. Our goal is to send students and visitors home with a good experience in the outdoors, to pique their interest and curiosity, and to encourage them to continue to learn on their own. In the course of the training, you will see a variety of teaching styles and will become familiar with the trail system.
The volunteer naturalists meet for training two mornings each week, starting on Tuesday, September 3rd or Wednesday, September 4th (Tue. & Wed. sessions are the same; Thu. & Fri. sessions are the same) and ending on Friday, September 27th. The training period also includes observing at least one school tour September 17th – 20th, teamed up with one of our veterans. After training, weekday volunteer naturalists work one day each week, with 6-10 students at a time, until November 15th. Most people choose to work on the same day each week; others work a more varied schedule. The tours typically begin at 9:45 am, and end at 1:00 pm (you may often leave by noon.)
If weekday mornings do not fit your schedule, there are plenty of other options:
A slightly different version of volunteer naturalist training especially geared toward working with evening, weekend and afterschool tours will be offered on 2 evenings and 4 weekend afternoons starting Tuesday, September 3rd, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. It will end with Part Six on Saturday, September 28th. If a tour is not available during that training period for new recruits to observe, there will be an opportunity to team up with a veteran volunteer naturalist before going solo. Volunteer naturalists who work with evening, weekend and afterschool tours choose 7 solo tour times over the next 5 months.
Visitor center hosts work out of the Interpretive Building. Sitting at the front desk or staying near the front door and phone, they are the hospitality experts who make each person who visits Oxley Nature Center feel welcome. They greet visitors, hand out trail maps, suggest hiking routes if asked, answer the phone, keep a visitor tally, handle gift shop sales, and may even tackle clerical or custodial chores during any lulls. Most of the training is on-the-job; the first time you work a shift, the first half-hour will cover front-desk routines and procedures. We will also set up a time to learn how to handle gift shop sales. Most visitor center hosts work once a month until the end of February.
"Trail work crew members" help us with maintaining trails, clearing brush to establish firebreaks, helping with controlled burns, picking up litter, painting, and other work projects. Look in the volunteer newsletter to see what's scheduled each month, or arrange your own solo projects with us for a season. You can also choose to Adopt-a-Trail, walking a chosen trail on a regular basis and reporting on its status. Trail walkers may also choose to maintain their trails if they wish, picking up trash, clipping, weed-whacking, etc. Trail improvements or major repairs should be cleared with our natural resources coordinator Vinnie Robinson first, since some of that work is promised to Eagle Scouts. Trail work crew members set up their own schedules, sending in a weekly report of the hours worked each day, until their season ends in February.
The “Traveling Exhibit team” takes a miniature version of Oxley Nature Center out on the road to visit people and places around the state. Road crew members transport exhibit materials to and from the event and help with set-up or take-down. Exhibit hosts don’t just sit at the booth; they pace the vicinity of the exhibit and greet passers-by, inviting them to visit Oxley Nature Center or attend a program. We are also looking for a co-coordinator, to help with scheduling and stocking booth supplies. Their season also ends in February.
The “Marketing/PR Team” would promote Oxley Nature Center and Redbud Valley Nature Preserve’s events and work to increase the number of drop-in visitors. At the very least, some of the work could be done from home, entering data on community calendars. We hope to see new team members for this fledgling group meeting to decide on goals and a working schedule.
A “Podcast Team” is open to those who would like to help the Oxley staff record, edit, and publish monthly podcasts of full moon walks and daytime nature hikes.
There is always miscellaneous work, like weeding the new gardens, counting butterflies, updating brochures, removing invasive alien species… What skills do you have to share over the next six months?
All kinds of people make good volunteers; the one thing they all have in common, though, is their friendliness and enthusiasm. The high quality of the Nature Center's programs is due to our great volunteer staff. If you would like to join this outstanding group of dedicated people, give us a call and sign up to begin training or to adopt a trail or to put your name on the rosters to be called for work parties or prescribed burns. Or, please call if you have any questions: 918-596-9054.