Photo: By Jo Doumbia, FMN Culmore Teens Summer Program 2023

Fairfax Master Naturalists in the Summer – Culmore Teens Summer Nature Program

Article and photos by FMN Jo Doumbia, FMN Outreach Committee Chair

As the warmth of summer fades, I find myself reflecting on the amazing journey 20 teens from the disadvantaged area of Culmore went through this summer as they participated in the Teens Summer Nature Camp. The camp itself was made possible via the combined energies and commitment of many sponsors with several dedicated Fairfax Master Naturalist (FMN) volunteers providing program support and guidance.

With hands-on support by FCPA, the Second Story Program at the Culmore Community Center, and the assistance FMN volunteers, we conducted nature related activities at Colvin Run, Hidden Oaks Nature Center, and Riverbend Park. We helped this youth group establish lasting positive connections with nature through activities such as orienteering, geocaching, reptile feeding, green careers discussion, and kayaking.

It was truly delightful to witness the high level of engagement on the part of the teens across the different summer activities. Their questions, comments, and concerns were right-on and not much different than those of many FMNers when first introduced to new or unknown concepts. The Culmore teens, along with the Second Story leadership, extend heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the FMN volunteers.

Photo: By Jo Doumbia, FMN Culmore Teens Summer Program 2023

Photo: By Jo Doumbia, FMN Culmore Teens Summer Program 2023

It is very rewarding just to realize the possibilities for volunteer programs like FMN, to share their enthusiasm, experience, and knowledge with those communities that have limited or no access to natural resource educational opportunities. For the Culmore teens and the FMN volunteers, this summer’s successful outreach experience just may be the beginning of more enriching educational experiences.

The continued success of programs like this, which I hope to be the first of many, depends on the sustained interest and willingness of knowledgeable volunteers. With a solid volunteer base we can help establish and support educational outreach experiences for natural resource stewardship in underserved and disadvantage communities. One of the most important connections these young people made was to realize the relationship between themselves and nature. They found enjoyment and strength through their summer journeys and experiences which may help them become better stewards of the planet.

As a follow up, and per request of the teens, we look forward to possibly offering a once-a-month nature outing. Be on the lookout for invitations to volunteer.

In closing, I want to express profound gratitude for our volunteers’ incredible support. In particular to Kim Munshower, JaneEllen Saums, Rob Warren, Jerry Nissley, and Whitney Redding, as well as to Suzanne Holland from the Hidden Oaks Nature Center.