Online Nature Guide Training Program Provides Career/Volunteer Opportunities For Outdoor, Wilderness Enthusiasts

Learning how to share a love of nature with others is now just a few clicks away with a new online, distance learning program that can turn a hobby or interest into something more, maybe even a career. The Nature Guiding program offered by the Center for Professional Development at Excelsior College is ideal for aspiring park rangers, volunteers or professionals who want to become outdoor educators or tour guides, retirees who work at nature centers, and youth group leaders who want to improve their presentation skills. In this professional development program, participants will gain some of the essential skills to become successful nature guides.

All great guides are story-tellers, not only about the adventures they have taken, but also about the natural world they are sharing with their audiences. The art and science of memorable and meaningful natural history storytelling, professionally known as “interpretation,” can now be learned through the only online interpretation training program available anytime, anywhere, at a self-defined pace.

The Nature Guiding program was developed by the course’s instructor, Nancy Tankersley, a Certified Interpretive Guide and Trainer, who has been a wildlife biologist in Alaska for more than 29 years.

The course is designed to be fun and challenging. Tankersley says, “Students will gain an understanding of the key principles of narrating a tour or nature program for various audiences, and how to research and deliver an unforgettable oral presentation—whether they are leading a nature-based tour or delivering a campfire talk.”

Although the course is delivered online, students must complete “in the field” requirements, including: observing a nature presentation and guided tour, designing an educational nature activity, and developing and delivering a program at a local nature center, library, school, or other approved venue. This requirement not only distinguishes Excelsior’s program, “it exceeds national standards, and provides a thorough preparation for narrating nature tours and delivering programs,” Tankersley noted. While the course focuses on nature presentations and interpretation, students will learn skills that are transferrable to other fields such as marketing, education, and business.

The course can also serve as a staff development tool for supervisors at zoos, aquaria and parks, and for outdoor organizations that cannot afford to have staff attend residency-based training programs. Because it is delivered online, Excelsior’s Nature Guiding program allows supervisors and staff a high degree of flexibility with work schedules.

Later this year a companion course, Heritage and Museum Guiding, designed for those wishing to work as guides and presenters in museums and cultural centers, will also be offered through the Center for Professional Development at Excelsior College.

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