Orientation Night

Orientation Night, July 28, 2015

By Heather

Excited and unsure is how I felt walking into the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center. I think for everyone any new social situation can be a bit awkward and make you feel a bit unsure. Lala Kumar greeted my husband and me at the table, easing some of the tensions with his welcoming manner. We picked up our name tags and signed in. Being greeted by Stacey Davis not only infects any recipient with kindness but you can feel her passion for what she does.

Choosing seats in the front row, because I have a tendency to like a clear view of the speaker, we settled into our chairs. The room was filled with a diverse crowd. It was interesting to see the age range and varying backgrounds of our fellow classmates which made the first 10 or 15 minutes in a new setting more comfortable than I was anticipating.

I am pretty sure all of the other future Master Naturalists felt the same at first, the excitement of starting a new adventure. Since we are all there for the same purpose but varying reasons, I think I can safely say we are all adventurers seeking knowledge. It is nice to finely meet people that are seeking that same adventure.

We got to meet and mingle through two different ice breaker exercises. I was relieved when we didn’t have to take off our shoes. Sounds funny I know but I had an ice breaker exercise for a group last year in college where we each took off a shoe and had to put our foot next to the person on one side or the other. We then had to hold each other’s shoe as a form of being in someone else’s shoes. Ummm…yeah.  I was quite relieved Stacey’s ice breakers were not painfully awkward. Phew!

Black file boxes sat on top of a long table towards the back of the room.  I am a dragonfly nut which made me SO excited to see a dragonfly sticker on the front saying, “Master Naturalist.” Do you know that feeling when you order something SO awesome that when you get the box, internally you get all excited? Squeal out loud or in your head? For me, being a recent college grad, the excitement was when I got a new science related text book. THIS is how I felt when we got to go get one of these black boxes. Goodies! To boot it is educational goodies! This simple black box of educational bliss provoked such excitement I felt like I was getting a geology, oceanography or astronomy textbook. Well, thinking about it, I did get a bunch of informational booklets about all the things I love. Not much is better than that, other than actually reading them of course!

“Ooooohhh!!! Cool stuff,” my husband said to me when he opened the box like a child opening a present. He and I were both giddy and grinning as we found a spiral bound writing and sketch book and a schedule of what we will be learning weekly.  Flipping through the green file folders we found different colorful publications corresponding with each weekly session. All of us also received a book, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches here and There by Aldo Leopold. For one of the ice breakers we got a peek at some of the quotes found within its pages.

After a little while of discussion regarding expectations we got a little break. Snacks were provided this time around but like any community we are all responsible. Two people per week will be bringing and sharing snacks. Yum!

Earlier in the session Mr. Kumar shared with us information about the other state chapters and the state conference, which I can say I am excited for next year!  I was surprised to learn approximately 20-25% of those trained to become Master Naturalists actually continue staying certified. These percentages are not exact; I did a quick calculation when he displayed the actual numbers.

I know and have known many people with social anxiety issues when it comes to joining a new group or taking a class. Everyone in our course is cordial and accepting. On a personal note I believe everyone needs to take themselves outside their own comfort zone. The key is finding a place where the group has a common interest and goal. Within this group is where I found mine.

I am ecstatic about my new adventure, the chance to get to know my fellow classmates and the opportunity to share my knowledge with others.

Heather’s Bio:

Relatively new to the Kansas City area, Heather moved here to finish her degree and marry her childhood friend. She has Bachelor of Art Degrees in both Journalism and Public Relations with a minor in Global Sustainability. She has always been fascinated by the natural world whether it is deep in a forest, 60 feet below sea level or light years away. She grew up in North Central Wisconsin deep in Dairy Land and learned an unfathomable respect and love of the natural world from her grandparents. Prior to moving to the KC metro she spent over a decade on the west coast of Florida where she owned a pet grooming business. Heather became a certified scuba diver, snorkeled with manatees and spent countless hours on the beach with her son. Since Heather has been here she has finished her degrees, begun gardening, been watching hummingbirds from her office window and is working towards being a Certified Missouri Master Naturalist. She is excited to complete the training and share her experiences with you.

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