Love the outdoors? Sign up to become a Kane County Certified Naturalist
Nature is good for you. There's a growing body of research showing that a daily dose of nature improves physical and mental health.
If you're like me, you want to know a little about a prescription before taking it. What are the ingredients of this "nature prescription"? And where do you pick up the script?
The Kane County Certified Naturalist program is the place to go. In this yearlong program for adult learners, you'll get an in-depth look at the natural areas of Kane County and learn about plants, animals, rivers and streams. You'll also learn about the geologic features that influence the life all around us.
Kane County Certified Naturalists program includes both indoor and outdoor learning experiences. It begins with six core classes in the winter covering the basics of woodlands, prairie, and wetland ecology. We examine the natural systems that tie these all together, and the integral role we play in stewardship.
Come spring, we head outdoors to get our feet wet -- often, literally! There are four field trips held in forest preserves and park district natural areas. The field sessions bring together the factual knowledge gained in the classroom and the tangible experience outdoors.
The initial year of study and exploration culminates in a graduation ceremony around the campfire. Graduates are feted with food (s'mores included!), official certificates, and lots of congratulations. KCCN alums and fellow "nature nuts" join in the celebration.
The KCCN experience doesn't end at graduation. In fact, graduation is just the beginning. Once the core classes are complete, KCCN graduates can choose from a variety of classes dubbed "Learn from the Experts" classes. These are offered all year, every year, covering a wide range of topics such as plant identification, glaciers, amphibians, habitat restoration, insect ecology -- you name it!
The classes are generally one to three hours in length and are held at various times and locations. You can pick and choose which work for you.
The Kane County Certified Naturalists program is a collaborative effort of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, the St. Charles Park District, and the Geneva Park District. 2019 will mark the 12th year of the program. Close to 280 people have participated in the program.
As a presenter, I have found it very rewarding to see the growth of the community of nature-lovers (or, as some would say, nature nerds). But don't take my word for it -- listen to what "KCCN-ers" have to say.
"It's a wonderful community of nature enthusiasts," said Kim Haag of St. Charles. Kim has been active in KCCN since 2007.
"This is a journey with kindred spirits discovering the beauty and challenges of Kane County's wonderful natural areas, venturing to places you probably never knew existed in our area. The class is eco-therapeutic, healing whatever ails your spirit," added Corey Begalka of Elgin.
St. Charles resident John Stern agreed.
"This program has brought more balance to my physical and mental well-being," he said. "There are memories made and retained forever."
There will be an open house from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Drive, St. Charles. Here you'll learn the details of the program, including dates, cost, and syllabus. It's an opportunity to ask questions of the instructors as well.
Attendance at the open house is not required for entry in the program. Applications are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration closes when the class is full.
Applications are available on the Forest Preserve District of Kane County website, kaneforest.com. You may also request an application by phone or email. Call (630) 444-3190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Valerie Blaine is the Environmental Education Manager for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County. You may reach her at email@example.com.