Wonder and Wisdom: they go hand in hand...

My name is Alexis Johnson, and I have just begun working at Polk County Conservation as a Community Outreach Technician.

I have been exceptionally lucky throughout my time working in conservation. I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Animal Ecology (Interpretation of Natural Resources), Environmental Studies, and International Studies just five years ago, but have already met some of my lifelong goals.
  • live and work internationally
  • connect children to nature
  • learn something new everyday
These last two goals are not only linked but also ongoing; I hope to continue connecting children to nature and learning new things - both of these will undoubtedly take place while working with Polk County Conservation.

Almost immediately after graduating from university, I moved to the United Kingdom where I would volunteer and work for a variety of environmental charities over the next five years. My favorite of these, was the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
An outstanding employer, the RSPB truly make their volunteers and employees feel like they are contributing members of society, and that the work they accomplish is valid and important to our environmental community.

I worked as a Field Teacher and Field Studies Officer at two different nature reserves managed by the RSPB. On a near daily basis, I led children and young adults on [and off!] trails, dipped into ponds, and hunted for “minibeasts” in woodlands and meadows.
[As a side note, I was also rained on almost every day I was outside! As they say: When in Rome, do as the Romans do…]

That's me in the middle, learning with some students and their grown-ups at RSPB Middleton Lakes nature reserve in Staffordshire, England.
For every group there were unique objectives, but the overarching goal for both formal and environmental educators alike was to simply get children outdoors and experience life and nature hands-on.

Now, children ask a lot of questions, and while it is certainly not always easy to answer these questions, imagine if you’d moved to another country where every question was as foreign to you as you were to the child!

For this reason, I encouraged children to answer their own questions by using careful observation. We would wonder together, and watch to learn what more we could find out. More often than not, we would walk away with even more wonders than we started with.
Rachel Carson once famously wrote, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

Each day, I strive to be that one adult. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding.

If you’d like to learn more about nature, there’s no need to travel abroad! Check out our list of programs available for children and their grown-ups right here in Polk County on our website.


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