“The mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled” Plutarch
As Environmental Education Specialist at the refuge, it is my goal to spark a fire and even a passion for the natural world in as many children and adults as possible and assist them in becoming independent naturalists.
The goal of all forms of education should be to ultimately make the human teacher obsolete and the learner independent. For a naturalist, the authentic teacher will always be the natural world. We read to a child with the goal of her becoming an independent reader; preferable one who loves reading. My objective is likewise to introduce people, young and old, to the natural world. To give them an appreciation, an understanding and even a love for the natural world. To assist them in becoming lifelong, independent students of the natural world and preferably ones who love the journey of discovery.
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge has many resources available to assist in that journey to becoming an independent student of nature:
- As you enter the building, you may notice that this is not a visitor center, but an Education Center. That distinction is salient. I have perused and enjoyed many visitor centers, but this Education Center is unique.
- The Avocet Bookstore is replete with educationally focused materials.
- The Exhibition Hall is beautifully designed and rife with interactive learning. Additionally, the front desk can provide “Scavenger Hunt” papers to further guide your visit.
- The main desk is a treasure trove of help and information. They can not only provide information and insights, they have student back packs, bird guides and even binoculars to enhance your visit.
- The hallways are adorned with ever changing displays and updates as well.
- The viewing deck will lead you out to a nature walk loop that will take you on an exploratory journey around the Education Center wetland. The swallows swoop in and out of their nests, beckoning you to observe and learn. Be sure to take your binoculars, your bird guide, your sketching pad, your nature journal or even your plein air easel and enjoy the sights, sounds and serenity. Pull up a bench and enjoy.
- The auditorium is used for a variety of educational purposes, but if you can, take the time to watch “Wings of Thunder.” It is a masterful overview of what the refuge’s purpose truly is.
- The singularly visionary piece of the Education Center is the inclusion of a dedicated Education Lab as well as a Research Lab.
- The greatest resources of all lies 15 minutes west of the Education Center. The Education Center, with all its resources is like the back jacket of an incredible book. The auto tour around the refuge is the real story. Birders, scientists and naturalists from literally all over the world eventually migrate to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It provides an amazingly diverse ecological field study site. The Bear River ends its meandering 350-mile journey by sprawling over hundreds of acres of sundry wetland habitats before they disperse into the equally unique Great Salt Lake. Be sure to grab a bird guide, a bird list, binoculars which are all available to borrow at the front desk or purchase in the Avocet Bookstore. And be sure to give yourself plenty of time.
All these resources have a single, unified focus… Education.
As a drop-in visitor, as a teacher, as a parent, as a youth group leader, all these resources are at your disposal. It is my hope, you will use each and every visit as a starting point to your ultimate objective of becoming an independent naturalist.
Light a fire of learning.
Environmental Education Specialist
Friends of Bear River Refuge