The Perot Museum’s Junior Master Naturalist outdoor education program is a unique well rounded curriculum. It is also one of the first of its kind in the United States. Perot Museum staff educator Jessica Crowley, said “From day one, students participating in our kick-off season of the Junior Master Naturalist program have been super excited and engaged in the content.” The program is a joint activity of Perot and highly trained North Texas Master Naturalists volunteers.
Nineteen students grades 4-6 gather one Thursday night a month in the Perot learning lab to study Texas geologic history, aquatic science, plant biology, and the biology and identification of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. They then follow-up each lab with a field trip on specified Saturdays to local Dallas area nature parks to explore what they have learned in the labs. Everything from collecting fossils, setting up game cameras, scat identification, planting seed balls to restore a Blackland Prairie and learning how to track animals in the field. Both the labs and the field trips are extraordinarily well organized with expert educators who are adept a making learning fascinating. The pilot program began September 2015 and will conclude June 2016, sign-up will begin July 2016 for the 2016/2017 year.
Paul, an enthusiastic participant said “my favorite part of Junior Master Naturalists is the field trips. It is so awesome to be outside.
I am getting to see things that even lots of adults in the city don’t get to see.” Rita said that she likes “exploring and learning about nature”, while another kids enjoys “meeting new people and making new friends”.
Lily, a mother with a daughter in the Junior Master Naturalists program said “I can learn along side my daughter on the Saturday field trips. While nature appreciation is a core value in our family the educational structure offered by Perot combined with the North Texas Master Naturalists makes the experience more meaningful.”
Education volunteer, Bob Richie said, “This program is special because it exposes kids to a broad range of natural systems. When kids learn about nature at such a young age, they will know how to take care of the earth when it is their turn”. Another experienced volunteer remarked that “these kids are as passionate about nature as the adult experts are. Because they come from all over Dallas to participate in this program, they are truly interested and are of a ‘like mind’. It is clear their parents did not force them to be involved, they are little scientists in their own right choosing to learn about nature”.
Due to the Perot Museum and North Texas Master Naturalists, the Dallas community is fortunate to be the only one in the country to benefit and learn from such and amazing, broad focused program.