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Natural History Docent Program

The Friends Education Program relies on volunteer docent naturalists to conduct the 4th Grade Nature Walks and to assist with adult walks/activities and other Friends sponsored events. Docents are volunteer members of the Friends of Madera Canyon recruited from the local community; many have a background in education or science, while others are birders or have other natural history interests. The unifying qualities of the docent corps are a love of Madera Canyon and a desire to share their knowledge about the canyon with others.

An important requirement for becoming a docent is gaining a broad practical knowledge of Madera Canyon and the Sky Island region. Through training sessions and other activities, docents are encouraged to learn about a variety of natural history subjects such as canyon ecology, geology/formation, field zoology, field botany, and archeology. Docent training sessions are held in February with:
1) Classroom work for walk protocol/procedures and introduction to the nature of the canyon. New docents receive the program’s Docent Manual, a Madera Canyon nature slideshow CD and a copy of Madera Canyon Wildflowers.

2) On-trail work with ideas and techniques to enable docents to help visiting students become “field naturalists,” improve their own powers of observation, and gain first-hand experience of the plants, animals, and other features of interest along the trail.

In addition to scheduled training sessions, docents are encouraged to continue their education throughout the year by attending nature walks, workshops, and activities sponsored by the Friends and other organizations. Several field guides and books are required study material; updates and pertinent new material are added to the Docent Manual on a regular basis.

The 4th Grade Nature Walks are held on Thursday mornings in the spring and fall. On the walks, new and inexperienced docents are paired with experienced lead docents to observe and learn; new docents are rotated to a different lead docent each walk to study different teaching styles and techniques. When ready, a new docent leads a group of students under the supervision of the Director of Education.

The Education Program is always looking for reliable, enthusiastic docent volunteers willing to make a commitment to learn about the canyon and share this information with others. Prospective docents must be members of the Friends of Madera Canyon and be willing to volunteer on Thursday mornings for three to four weeks in October/November and nine to 10 weeks in February, March, and April (including mandatory training sessions). Anyone interested in volunteering for this program, please contact Education Director Doug Moore at maderaedu@q.com or  (520) 682-0459.