The Regional Review

Volume IV - Nos. 4 & 5

April-May, 1940

A New Venture in Nature Leadership Training
Nature Activities Specialist,
National Recreation Association.

An Outdoor Class in Natural History

As old as man himself is his urge to understand and enjoy the world in which he lives. In the rural civilization of the past, this urge found many means of satisfaction, but in the urbanization of populations and the development of an industrial, machine-dominated way of life, the methods and opportunities of gaining satisfaction in the out-of-doors have changed tremendously.

It has become necessary to set aside park and forest areas for public recreational use. Into them may go the hiker, the picnicker, the camper, and the nature enthusiast. But, because of the poverty of background of many individuals, it has not always been sufficient to supply merely the facilities for outdoor recreation; and, because many do not know how to attain unaided the maximum enjoyment from the out-of-doors, organized programs for children and adults are being provided. These are planned to develop an appreciation and understanding of the physical world. The last seven or eight years have witnessed a phenomenal growth in state and local park programs, an expansion of organized camping facilities, increased emphasis on nature activities in municipal recreation, recognition by schools that nature affords the best laboratory for the teaching of natural sciences, and a general awakening of public interest in conservation.

With this increased alertness there has arisen a great need for qualified leaders able to interpret the natural world accurately, yet simply, to the various groups with whom they are called upon to work. The training of leaders, teachers, nature activity specialists, and naturalists has become a vital need of those who have the responsibility for administering programs. It is recognized generally that the most fruitful type of training is that which provides real field experiences rather than only book natural history.

To this end a number of field schools have been organized. In 1925 the Yosemite School of Field Natural History began the training of nature leaders with a special emphasis on the type of training that would fit them for work as naturalists in national parks. Teachers' colleges, natural history associations and private organizations since that time have organized several such schools for the training of teachers, camp leaders, club leaders, naturalists, and others with related interests. Most of these schools are located either in the North, East or Far West. No effort has been made thus far to provide such training in any of the states of the South. The development of state parks and of the 46 Recreational Demonstration Areas by the National Park Service, and the increase in area of county and city parks, have resulted in the need for specific training for leaders who might perform naturalist service in such areas.

A new venture in nature leadership training will be launched June 24 at Swift Creek Recreational Demonstration Area, eighteen miles south west of Richmond, Virginia, where a four-week training course for 25 prospective leaders will be inaugurated. The 7,500-acre area will provide not only the rich natural setting needed in such a training school, but also will afford the opportunities for practice leadership with children's and adult groups. Three organized camps will be in session nearby and these, with public use of the park, result in a monthly attendance of approximately 35,000 persons.

Emphasis of the course will be on field natural history. A non-technical approach will be made to the various nature subjects, such as birds, mammals, plants, insects, rocks, and minerals. As far as possible these subjects will be studied in their ecological relationships. There will be instruction in methods of arousing interest in nature and of organizing and directing that interest in a satisfying manner. The program will include four types of activities:

1. Daily field trips.

2. Informal lectures and campfire sessions.

3. Laboratory work, including the preparation of nature displays .

4. Practical experience in arranging and conducting nature activities for both children and adults.

The Virginia Natural History Institute, an agency established to advance public interest in conservation and nature education, will have direct charge of the school. Cooperating agencies include the Virginia Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, the National Recreation Association, and the Richmond Professional Institute of the Colledge of William and Mary.

Members of the National Park Service staff who will assist in conducting the school include Dr. Carl P. Russell, Supervisor of Research and Information; Conrad L. Wirth, Supervisor, and Herbert Evison, Assistant Supervisor, Branch of Recreation, Land Planning and State Cooperation; Earl A. Trager, Chief Naturalist; Clifford C. Presnall and O.B. Taylor, of the Section on National Park Wildlife of the Bureau of Biological Survey; Ned J. Burns, Chief of the Museum Division; Harold H. Hawkins, Geologist; Fred H. Arnold, Forester, and Stanley M. Hawkins, Associate Recreational Specialist in Camping. Scientists from state conservation and educational agencies and institutions are expected to contribute to the training program. These include Dr. Arthur R. Bevan, Virginia State Geologist; Guy Buller, fish culturist of the Virginia Fish and Gene Commission; Dr. John Wendell Bailey, Professor of Biology of the University of Richmond, and Dr. J. J. Murray, of Lexington, ornithologist. [Editor's Note: Mr. Carlson, author of this article, will have general charge of instruction.]

Students will be housed in a modern organized camp which includes screened cabins, hot shower houses, lodges, nature and craft buildings, dining hall, infirmary and swimming beach. Operation of the camp will be under direction of John I. Neasmith, Associate Recreational Specialist. The regular leadership staff will conduct activities in arts and crafts, music, dramatics, nature study and archery. Evening campfire programs and social events will be planned from time to time during the school period. Arrangements have been made for obtaining undergraduate college credit for the work performed by enrolled students.

One of the Lakes at Swift Creek Recreational Demonstration Area

<<< Previous
> Contents <
Next >>>
Date: 04-Jul-2002