Photo Caption: Participants in the Kane County Certified Naturalist program learn about local ecology through a combination of coursework and field trips to area parks and preserves.
Good Natured: Kane County Certified Naturalists
November 5, 2021
When was the last time you looked – I mean realllllly looked – at the shape and size of a tree bud? Or paused to observe whether the tree’s branches were alternate or opposite?
When you look at a prairie, do you wonder what’s going on in the soil below? Are you curious how the plants survive-thrive, even-following a prescribed burn?
When you see a snake on a path, do you head toward of it instead making a dash in the opposite direction?
If any of these endeavors sound familiar, golly, do I have a deal for you!
Kane County Certified Naturalists, our area’s award-winning conservation education program, is gearing up for its 15th year of classes, field trips and fun. Part outdoor education, part social network and part self-help group for incurable nature nerds, KCCN is a year-long program designed for adults who want to learn more about the natural history of our great county, and also find out about ways to put that knowledge to good use.
To ensure everyone feels comfortable in their learning environment, we offer three different registration options:
- In-person core classes + in-person field trips
- Online (via Zoom) core classes + in-person field trips
- Online (via Zoom) core classes only; individuals choosing this option will receive course materials but will not attend field trips, complete a final exam or receive official certification. But it’s still a great option for people wanting to enrich their knowledge of our local environment.
Course materials for all registrants will include a copy of the Chicago Wilderness publication, An Atlas of Biodiversity, as well as the field guide Kane County Wild Plants & Natural Areas by Dick Young.
The program kicks off on January 13 with the first of six core courses that will be held on Thursday nights, 6-8:30 p.m. Week one presents an overview of ecology and insects; in week two we explore local geology and soils. Over the next three weeks we’ll cover wetlands, and reptiles and amphibians; then prairies and birds; and then woodlands and mammals. The final week, we’ll wrap up with a look at our Fox River watershed, and groundwater and aquatic systems.
At this point you’ll know what ecosystem is more endangered than the tropical rainforests and why earthworms are unwelcome in the woods. These and other amazing threads of knowledge together weave a tapestry of interconnections guaranteed to knock your Smartwool socks off. But wait…there’s more!
After taking some time to let the weather warm a bit, people who have signed up for full certification will embark on a series of four Saturday field trips. In April we’ll hike the glacial-borne hills of Hickory Knolls; in early May we’ll revel in the glory of woodland wildflowers at Johnson’s Mound Forest Preserve in Elburn; later that month we’ll explore the aquatic ecosystems within LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles; and in June we’ll prowl the prairie at Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia.
From there, certification candidates have until April of 2023 to complete an additional 30 hours of advanced coursework (our Learn from the Experts classes or courses from other approved providers) and/or volunteer service at any of three participating agencies – the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, the Geneva Park District and St. Charles Park District. After that, it’s on to graduation and your new life as an official KCCNer.
If KCCN sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, please consider attending an information session that we’ll be hosting at 7p.m. on Thursday November 11 at Hickory Knolls. If you’ve never been here before, we are located within the James O. Breen Community Park, which is at the corner of Peck and Campton Hills Roads in St. Charles. Enter off of Peck or Campton Hills, then head as far west as you can. We are situated in a small rise in between the dog park and the garden plots.
During this meet-and-greet we’ll go over the course syllabus and respond to any questions or concerns you might have. But keep in mind, attendance at the info session is not required for entry in the program. The Geneva Park District will begin taking registrations on Friday November 12 using the following codes:
- 5411901-01 In person class with field trips $375
- 5411901-02 Online class with field trips $375
- 5411901-03 Online class only (no field trips, no certification) $175
Questions? Feel free to let me know. I’m certified. 🙂
Pam Otto is the outreach ambassador for the St. Charles Park District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630-513-4346.