|Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010|
The first-ever Ranger-in-Training camp was held at the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station, located within the park, from July 6 to July 9th. The camp was made possible by a small grants award from the National Park Foundation.
During this four-day, two-night camp, twelve teenagers from the U.S. Virgin Islands enjoyed being immersed in the park’s natural and cultural resources while participating in activities that provided insight into the work done by park staff employed in resource careers, such as park guides, archeologists and biologists.
Lessons included snorkeling, hiking preparedness, nature journaling, navigation with a compass, night sky navigation, fire safety and construction, artifact excavation methodology, sea turtle nest monitoring and excavation, and fish survey methodology. Campers were also informed of various critical resource threats and conservation concerns.
During their visit to the remote and hard-to-access area of Hurricane Hole inside Coral Reef National Monument, for example, the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish and global climate issues which are impacting the reef (e.g. coral bleaching and disease and sediment loading) were pointed out as they snorkeled through a rare reef community in the mangroves. The threats and current state of the park’s 18th century ruins, which remain from the Danish colonization period on the island of St. John, were also discussed.
Although s’mores and snorkeling topped the list of many campers, it was evident that these teenagers are now more aware of the training and education associated with National Park Service careers as a result of this camp. However, simply immersing local children inside the park was in ways more than any delivered lesson could provide, as there were several “first-times” for many campers.
Said one camper as she observed brittle stars during a seashore activity: “I’ve never seen anything like this before!” Said another as she hiked three miles for the first time: “I’ve never hiked this far!” Said a third looking at the night sky: “I’ve never seen so many stars… definitely not on St. Thomas [a more populated neighbor island].”
It is clear that experiential learning and personal observations, of which national parks provide, with assistance of positive mentors, can truly increase nature stewardship and appreciation.