Learning and serving with nature

Super-powered volunteer opportunities

By Kristen Wicker

Photo: Volunteers working during a native plant primer class offered by Five Rivers MetroParks


Carrying five-gallon buckets of water to nourish tree seedlings isn’t too much to ask of volunteer Marketa Anderson – even if it means displacing a rib in the process.

“That was one of the times I felt I really made a difference: It was so dry and those starving trees out there needed their water,” Anderson said. “I really do enjoy my volunteer work with the Tree Corps. With the loss of so many native trees, we need to plan for the future.”

For such devoted volunteers as Anderson and those who want to take volunteerism to the next level, Five Rivers MetroParks offers service learning programs. Participants gain in-depth knowledge during classes taught by experts in their fields for a reasonable cost. In return, participants contribute 25 to 50 hours of volunteer service in a year’s time.

Anderson has taken service learning programs to become a master organic gardener, volunteer naturalist and master recycler. She started volunteering with a perennial group at Cox Arboretum MetroPark and moved into naturalist-type opportunities, such as working with the MetroParks Tree Corps, which helps with reforestation efforts. She also became involved with Five Rivers MetroParks as a way to get her granddaughter, then 7, involved. The pair served together as docents in the Butterfly House at Cox Arboretum for more than four years.

“After I retired from NCR, I wanted to do several things, including giving back to the community and learning new things,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in living lightly on the Earth, so the [MetroParks’] programs allowed me to do both those things while making a difference.”

Now, Anderson is a certified volunteer with MetroParks and has been volunteering for more than 11 years.

“The service learning courses are designed to train volunteers to support staff at a much higher level,” said Kevin Kepler, MetroParks’ volunteer services manager. “Students receive preparation to take on volunteer leadership roles. They receive lifelong knowledge and also have the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at Five Rivers MetroParks, along with very specialized training from some of the best people in their fields,” he added. “For the organization, help from volunteers allows us to reach more people in the public and do more with our resources.”

Programs also include field trips and hands-on experience so students can practice what they learn in the field, Kepler said.

Tony Pope started volunteering for Five Rivers MetroParks in 2000. He’s taken service learning courses on such topics as silviculture, recycling and gardening.

“You learn stuff you never even thought of before,” he said. “It gives you more insight into the area [you’re studying]. In the silviculture class, we learned about propagation and details about trees, bark and acorns. When I walked through the woods after taking the course, I’d think about things I learned.”

The class also helps Pope in his volunteer work. “I learned about preserving forests, and I use that to help at the parks. So, when I work in a forest reserve transplanting trees, I know how to do it the right way: when and how to prune, planting at the proper level, and digging a hole that’s big and wide enough.”

Both Anderson and Pope encourage others to participate in the service learning programs.


“There’s an amazing amount to learn and you meet a lot of interesting, like-minded people,” Anderson said. “It is really fun to work with the great groups of volunteers and you’ll always learn something, whether from working with another volunteer or an instructor or a staff person. It’s a growth experience.”


Get out and give back!

Five Rivers MetroParks’ service learning programs give participants in-depth knowledge for a nominal fee. In return, they volunteer a minimum number of hours in the parks. Upcoming programs are listed below.

To apply for a service learning program, please contact Kevin Kepler at 937.275.PARK or kkepler@metroparks.org. For more information on these programs and other volunteer opportunities, please visit metroparks.org/volunteer.

Master Recycler

Tuesdays Feb. 11 through March 4

6-8 p.m.

A collaboration with the Montgomery County Solid Waste District, sessions are held at the Solid Waste facility at 2550 Sandridge Dr. in Moraine.

Learn about:

• green living practices and initiatives

• the latest available technology in the Miami Valley

• effective recycling at home and in the community

• $25

Native Plant Primer

Tuesdays Jan. 28 through March 18

1-4:30 p.m.

Five Rivers MetroParks’ headquarters, 409 E. Monument Ave. in downtown Dayton

Learn about:

• native plants and habitats

• the impact of invasive species

• techniques for successful reforestation and habitat restoration

• how to interpret plants and share info with others

• $35

MetroParks Volunteer Naturalist

Thursdays, Feb. 27 through April 24

9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Germantown MetroPark Nature Center, 6910 Boomershine Rd.

Learn about:

• how to share the natural world with visitors

• interpretive skills

• plant and animal identification skills

• $50

Reach DCP freelance writer Kristen Wicker at KristenWicker@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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