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Ogden Nature Center great place for students to volunteer

Volunteers at the Ogden Nature Center receive instructions prior to the Creatures of The Night event on Oct. 24. The Nature Center offers volunteer opportunities for people of all ages. (The Signpost/ Abby Payne)

With fall in full tilt, students may want to leave their classwork and studying behind and enjoy the brightly-colored trees before winter sets in. One place students can do this is the Ogden Nature Center.

Located at 966 W. 12th St., the Ogden Nature center is a 152-acre nature preserve and education center focused on educating students of all ages about the plants and animals native to Utah. In addition to educating visitors, the Ogden Nature Center also strives to entertain guests by offering 1.5 miles of walking trails, tree house displays and animal exhibits.

In addition to being a scenic place to spend a few hours of time, Dugan Brunker, junior in choral education, said that the Ogden Nature Center is a wonderful place to volunteer. Brunker has been volunteering with the Ogden Nature Center for three years. Some of his duties include helping with the center’s birds of prey.

“I think it’s fascinating to hang out with birds that could kill you if they wanted to,” Brunker said. “I want to go into education and volunteering at the Nature Center gives me an opportunity to talk to guests who want to learn more about the birds so I can educate them about that.”

Corbin Standley, senior in psychology and president of the honors student advisory board, agreed with Brunker. Standley said the Ogden Nature Center is a great place for students to visit and to volunteer.

“(The Ogden Nature Center) is different in that you’re still doing hands-on work but you’re with nature and animals and that helps distinguish it from other organizations,” Standley said. “It’s one of the few service-learning places that involves nature and the outdoors and that kind of stuff . . . It’s a great way to get in touch with nature in a way that’s engaging as well as educational.”

Standley also said that the Ogden Nature Center is a great place for students to apply skills that they learn in the classroom to real-life situations. Standley said the critical thinking skills he’s gained from honors classes have been very useful while volunteering with the Ogden Nature Center.

“I think it’s very important to do the service and get involved in the community because I think it helps apply your classroom knowledge to your community,” Standley said. “You’re in the classroom, sometimes with interdisciplinary classes, and I think it’s a great opportunity to go out into the community and apply that knowledge and help people at the same time.”

Besides making use of skills learned in the class room, Standley said he feels it’s important for students to get out into the community and give service because it helps students have a better sense of what is going on in their community. Service, according to Standley, also makes students more compassionate and sympathetic to those around them.

Shawnee Sawyer, outreach coordinator at the Ogden Nature Center, said that her favorite part of her job is working with the animals. As outreach coordinator, Sawyer takes some of the animals housed at the Ogden Nature Center out into the community and teaches about indigenous animals and habitat preservation in Utah. She said being able to help injured and captive animals have a purpose in life is one of her favorite parts of her job.

“It’s interesting working with the animals,” Sawyer said. “They start out with ‘oh I’m injured, I can’t fly anymore and I’m really mad and ticked off at the world.’ Then they realize ‘oh wait I do have an important job. These kids, these veterans come and see me and they can look up close and learn about the natural world’ and that’s a really cool part of this job.”

Sawyer said that students interested in volunteering with the Ogden Nature Center can fill out a volunteer application online, then call the nature center and see when the next volunteer orientation is. From there, volunteers can decide how much time they can dedicate to the center and what projects they’d like to work with.

Sawyer also emphasized that the Ogden Nature Center is not just for kids; it’s for all ages.

“There are community events going on all the time,” Sawyer said. “It’s a great place to bring your family, your friends. It’s an awesome place to bring a date. She’d be really impressed you took her to something more than bowling.”



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