Help children experience nature with Audubon

By Becky Gillette

Special to The PREVIEW

Back in the day, weekends and vacations for school-aged children meant long days playing outside — riding bikes, jumping in puddles, wading in a creek or building a fort in the woods. According to a 2010 Henry J. Kaiser Foundation report, today’s kids do less and less of that: on average, Americans under 18 spend 90 percent of their time indoors, and five to 15 hours each day looking at electronic screens.

Since 2007, Audubon Rockies has trained more than 60 adults to help combat the screen-centered lifestyle of our local youth through Four Mile Ranch Environmental Education — where volunteer educators lead children through easy hikes and simple activities that ignite enthusiasm and foster appreciation for the natural world.

Each year, we recruit and train as many volunteers as we can to help lead standards-based science programs for every student at Pagosa Springs Elementary School, plus dozens of other children from around the region.

It’s simple to be a volunteer educator — if you can hike primitive, hilly trails, and you love both children and nature, you’re qualified. For your first season, we ask that you attend four free (and fun) training sessions, and lead at least four of the 15-20 student programs held on school days from Sept. 10 to Oct. 16.

Returning volunteers make this program succeed — so we make it easy for you to come back year after year. After your first season, you don’t need to attend the training again — we’ll just sign you up for program dates that work for you.

A simple background check is required for all Audubon volunteers who work with children. You complete the paperwork and we submit it, with no fingerprints, photographs or other hassles.

This year’s volunteer educator training takes place Aug. 26 and 27 and Sept. 3 and 4. Advance registration is required. To register or to learn more, contact Becky Gillette at 883-3066 or