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KAEE Member Feature: Wren Smith

If you’ve ever visited Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky, you know it is a sparkling gem of natural beauty. What you may not know is what goes on behind the scenery to help folks of all ages engage and learn while visiting and exploring this 16,140 acre nature preserve.

Today we’re excited to feature one “little bird” that puts a lot of heart into her work and the mission of the park. Her name is Wren and you’ll find her working hard each day to coordinate and engage visitors through direct programming and coordinating Bernheim’s robust Volunteer Naturalist program. Because the park sees more than 500,000 visitors from the U.S. and abroad each year, they rely on this strong network of volunteer educators and Wren keeps it all running smoothly. We had a moment to catch up with her and wanted to share our chat below.

KAEE: What is your current role at Bernheim?

Wren: I’m the Interpretive Programs Manager. My role primarily is to offer Bernheim visitors positive experiences that enhance their connection to nature. This involves providing public programs and facilitating direct informal interpretive encounters between our visitors and Volunteer Naturalists.

KAEE: What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you?

Wren: The projects that most inspire me are those that involve our amazing core of Volunteer Naturalists. I started Bernheim’s Volunteer Naturalists training program 20 years ago, and I’m constantly inspired by the kindness and curiosity of these volunteers; as well as their dedication to helping others care about and for this planet.

KAEE: What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field?

Wren: I would like to develop a more cohesive training manual that would serve as a guide or blueprint for the next Bernheim Interpretive Programs Manager who may work with volunteers, or others who might wish to develop a similar kind of training program to extend the reach of our EE and interpretive efforts.

KAEE: What is an area you feel you could use support in from this network of fellow educators?

Wren: I could use help in creating evaluating tools that measure successes and areas in our training that need improving. Also, networking and shared trainings and other partnerships are a win-win for everyone.

KAEE: What is something you feel could be beneficial to share with this network?

Wren: Some of what I’ve learned while training volunteer naturalists might be helpful to others, especially in regards to facilitating vs. teaching. Also, I’ve been involved with both EE and Interpretation and find them to be parallel but sometimes differing approaches or paths towards the same goals. Each with insights that can enhance the other. I have over 40 years of experience teaching classes on foraging for useful plants and like to focus on how such knowledge fosters deeper connections with history, other cultures, and the rest of nature.

KAEE: Would you like to share a fun fact or tidbit about yourself with the group?

Wren: In my mid- twenties I worked for an organization that led overnight canoeing trips into the Okefenokee swamp, as well as Incredible Edible programs off the Georgia coast, and other cool places.


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