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July 9, 2020
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Learn to docent at the SSU Fairfield Osborn Preserve

  • Fairfield Osborn Preserve

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
January 11, 2019

The Fairfield Osborn Preserve, one of the three preserves owned and managed by Sonoma State University, is inviting community members to participate in a special winter naturalist program. The docent training will educate participants about the natural and cultural history of Sonoma Mountain and how to share this knowledge with others, especially school children. 

“What is unique about this particular winter naturalist program is that it is for community members, specifically,” says Julie Wittmann, Naturalist Training Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Inquiry at Sonoma State University. “Historically our programs have been geared towards Sonoma State University students. But what we’re doing here is creating an environmental education docent training program to support our other naturalists in the future for our other programs. It’s really important that we have community members support this program because they’ll go on to continue to support other naturalists in training and the field trip programs that we have at Fairfield Osborn Preserve.”

The university received a grant for the sole purpose of conducting this special training program geared towards community members. Once trained, docents are expected to commit to leading at least five tours for elementary school children, primarily on Fridays from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

“Our field trip programs typically focus on 3rd through 5th grade,” says Wittmann. “We provide field trip opportunities for a lot of students in the North Bay, especially in Sonoma County.”

The four-day training takes place on Jan. 13, 20, 27 and Feb. 3. Participants are required to be available all four days, as well as a practice tour on Feb. 8. All training and tours are hosted at the Education Center at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve, a 15-minute drive from Sonoma State’s campus to Lichau Road in Penngrove.

Trained naturalists become part of a community of volunteers -who not only have the chance to learn more themselves about our local flora and fauna, but also obtain access to exclusive events, hikes and overnight field trips with regional experts.

“Becoming part of the local community in supporting school children and having an exploration-based way to enjoy our natural environment would be the number one benefit of participating,” says Wittmann. “Also, it’s really important for folks to know about our local natural and cultural history in Sonoma County, including on Sonoma Mountain which is where Fairfield Osborn preserve is located.”

At the time of this writing there is still room to participate in the program and interested volunteers can contact Julie Wittmann at Julie.wittmann@sonoma.edu.