by Hazel Stark
As entrepreneurs of a young organization, it’s a pretty special moment when someone from well outside your service area finds you on the internet and invites you to present at an event three states away! That’s exactly what happened when we heard from an organizer of the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage in New York last fall asking if we would be the speakers for their “Big Tent Talk” on Saturday night of the event.
The Allegany Nature Pilgrimage is an annual event that has been happening annually since 1958! Naturalists from primarily New York and Pennsylvania get together at beautiful Allegany State Park to learn from and with each other about birds, salamanders, plants, fungi, geology, and pretty much anything else you could discover outside.
We presented two short programs that were well attended. During “Geology for Kids, Educators, and the Young at Heart (Because fun, approachable geology goes well beyond schist jokes)”, we facilitated games that helped participants of all ages understand how rocks are formed then found rocks with a bunch of fossils in them (not something we see in Maine often). In “Those Pesky Other Senses: Prepare to be blinded by fun!” we challenged participants to do a blind walk that encouraged them to make observations without using their sense of sight--the sense many naturalists rely on the most.
For the “Big Tent Talk,” we shared photos and excerpts of the radio show we volunteer to do for WERU-FM during our off time for a room of over 200 people for an hour. Several people came up to us afterwards sharing that we were the best evening speakers they’d had in years!
We also got to experience a bit of professional development ourselves, learning about bird banding, identifying birds by ear, and learning about different species of salamanders. Overall, it was a great opportunity to explore a new ecosystem, teach, present, and learn!