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Article updated: 11/7/2012 4:02 PM

Naturalist certification program offered in Kane County

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Submitted by Forest Preserve District of Kane County

Discover the nature of Kane County and become a certified naturalist. The Kane County Certified Naturalist program offers new learning opportunities in the setting of our native woodlands, prairies and wetlands.

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Sponsored by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County and the St. Charles and Geneva park districts, the certified naturalist program is designed to provide in-depth knowledge of local ecology and cultural history.

The program is for ages 16 and older. Participants who attend six classroom sessions and three field trips, combined with 30 hours of continuing education and volunteer work throughout the year earn certification as a Kane County Certified Naturalist.

The 2013 class begins in January, with classroom sessions in the winter, and field trips in the spring. A complete schedule will be available at the information meetings.

Information sessions are planned from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 at Peck Farm Park, 4038 Kaneville Road, Geneva; and 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at Creek Bend Nature Center in LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve, 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles. Anyone interested in learning more about this program is welcome to attend.

The Kane County Certified Naturalist program was developed in 2006. So far, 77 people have earned their naturalist certificates. Graduates cite many reasons for participating in the program. Kim Haag, a graduate from Elgin, became involved in order to learn how she could help heal the land. "It's exciting to be involved in the care and restoration of our natural areas and be part of the education of the public," said Haag.

Environmental educator Suzi Meyers of St. Charles said, "I took many outdoor education classes and found I wanted even more on the local level. The fact that we would be learning right in our own backyard made the experience exciting to me, as I would be able to take my grandkids to these sites to share my new knowledge."

Field trips are often the highlight of the experience. Whether trekking through a tallgrass prairie, walking in woods carpeted with wildflowers or climbing a kame, students discover new wonders in our natural areas. Instructors and hike leaders share a wealth of knowledge of botany, ornithology, wildlife biology and more.

The program has inspired many people to volunteer in Kane County. Some people form the program have become natural areas stewards for the Forest Preserve District. Some are education volunteers with the St. Charles Park District. Several are volunteer guides at Peck Farm Park's Butterfly House. "Volunteering is a key part of the KCCN learning experience," explained Robb Cleave, the Forest Preserve District's volunteer coordinator.

It's not just "head knowledge" that makes the Kane County Certified Naturalist experience so meaningful; it's "heart knowledge," too.

"The program has enriched my life," said Haag. "Not only has my love and appreciation for the wild and natural world been expanded and enhanced, but I feel I have become part of a greater community of others with like minds. I have met a wonderful group of people who have become close friends and colleagues in a great adventure."

Come see what it's all about. For information call (847) 741-8350 or email programs@kaneforest.com.

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