After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, North Mountain Park Nature Center successfully brought back hands-on outdoor field trips to Rogue Valley students! Thanks to a matching-funds grant from United Communities AmeriCorps and a passionate AmeriCorps service member, the spring field trips at North Mountain Park offered 442 Rogue Valley students an opportunity to learn about their environment while helping them make positive changes in their ecological community.
Currently, staffing reductions within Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission have made it difficult to offer the environmental education programs that students, teachers and volunteers have come to love over the years. Late last year, the Nature Center staff applied for and secured an AmeriCorps service member, to help bring back field trip programing to some extent. Mikaela Lea became the Service Learning Program Leader at North Mountain Park and was responsible for planning and executing two programs each week throughout the spring season.
Service Learning programs involve 3rd through 12 grade students in a hands-on, outdoor lesson plan, and an opportunity to give back to the park through a related stewardship project. Teachers have never been more passionate about getting their students learning outdoors! When registration opened, the field trip slots were all reserved within hours, with teachers clamoring to be placed on the waiting list.
Lea coordinated the help of 11 volunteer instructors and helped train them to lead service activities and facilitate inquiry-based, outdoor lessons. Since the kick-off in March, we have served 19 classes and 442 students, from four school districts throughout our region!
With Lea’s help, these programs contributed 556 volunteer stewardship hours to maintain the Natural Areas at North Mountain Park. This contribution equates to over three months of full-time maintenance labor in the diverse wildlife habitats of the park. Huge swaths of flammable Himalayan blackberry were removed, stretches of stream banks were cleared of invasive species and trails were maintained for public access.
Lea is wrapping up her six-month AmeriCorps service term at the end of July. Like so many others who have been impacted by the North Mountain Park Nature Center, Lea will bring the gifts of service and sustainability into her future life and career.
For more information on the North Mountain Park Nature Center, please visit NorthMoutainPark.org. Follow on social media @AshlandParksandRec and use the hashtags #NMP #NorthMountainPark #
AshlandParksandRec.org | ParksInfo@ashland.or.us | 541.488.5340 | @AshlandParksandRec #APRC #AshlandParksandRec