This story appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Our Big Backyard, a quarterly magazine about parks and nature. Read more stories, plan an outing with a field guide, and find out more about fun nature events and classes.
Walking down a slippery path one rainy morning, it’s crystal clear that nature is important to Metro volunteer Myriam Zagarola.
"En comunión con la naturaleza,” she says. “In English it means you are connected through God’s hand with nature. Communion in the Catholic Church means your soul is connected with God."
Q. How did you first grow your connection with nature?
A. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I lived on a farm. It is the reason I am very connected to nature. My grandfather had a coffee plantation. We didn't have electricity or running water. My mother took care of our basic needs and also raised chickens and pigs for revenue. We didn't have much, but we did have what we needed. I grew up in the woods, beginning at 5 a.m. every morning we went into the woods to work. It was then I saw there were so many things you could do.
Q. How did you hear about Metro's Nature University?
A. "I have volunteered since my son was young. When we lived in Georgia, I volunteered a lot with the local extension service as a master gardener. I also did a lot of interpretations and translations for the PTA. My son and I wanted to meet people and do the things we liked to do. Oregon is so green, clean and has so many opportunities. It made me want to know more.
One day I saw an advertisement for Metro's Nature University. It sounded very interesting. An educational program that helps kids - for me it is very important. I knew it would be a good way to learn about the local plants and places. Coming from Georgia the rain was very unusual for me. I learned that it doesn't matter if it's raining. You go out and in less than a half hour you are acclimated. You don't even notice the rain.
Q. What did you learn or experience?
A. When I started volunteering it was very satisfying that I could pass this knowledge to the children and make a difference. Children of elementary age - they are like a sponge. It's a good time in their lives to teach nature. Volunteering for Metro was a great opportunity for me. These kids, after all, are going to be the future. They will pass down this knowledge. These kids will be parents and grandparents and pass on this knowledge generation to generation. For me that was the most rewarding thing to do: that I had a little bit of influence on the future.
If you enjoy working with children, love nature and have time to commit to support Metro’s programming, become a volunteer naturalist by attending Nature University. No special experience is required. At Nature University, you receive the training needed to become a qualified and confident Metro volunteer naturalist.
Application deadline is Nov. 7. Informational sessions are scheduled for Oct. 10 and Nov. 13.
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