June 21, 2019

Learn to Leave No Trace or become a Certified Interpretive Guide at SIU’s Touch of Nature

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Long an epicenter for outdoor experiential education, camps for people of all ages – including those with disabilities – and so much more, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center is expanding its offerings to add two special types of training.

The center has been selected as one of very few sites across the nation to host Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics Master Educator Course training sessions and the center is also now holding National Association for Interpretation Certified Interpretive Guide workshops.

SIU only Midwest site for Master Educator Course

Just once every five years the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics chooses organizations authorized to offer the Master Educator Course Provider course and Touch of Nature Environmental Center is one of just 12 selected for 2020-2024.

“We’re the only site based in the Midwest,” JD Tanner, TON director, said.

In addition, SIU is the first and only university and one of just three new course providers for the next five-year period.

Big impact for the region

Tanner said the five-day class is “ideal for educators, outdoor professionals and outdoor enthusiasts.”

Since the number of course providers is so small, participants will likely come from a large area. The center hopes to see revenue increases of about $60,000 in its first year of offering these courses, with room for growth in the subsequent years of the agreement term, officials said.

“This is huge for Touch of Nature, SIU and the region,” Steve Gairepy, environmental education program coordinator for Touch of Nature, said.

Promoting outdoor ethics

The intensive, hands-on learning course prepares participants to use and teach others the best practices for “leaving no trace.”

The goal is to enable people to have the least possible impact on nature while enjoying all it has to offer. This is the highest level of training offered by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, based in Boulder, Colorado.  

The Leave No Trace Center is a non-profit organization established a quarter-century ago to promote responsible outdoors use, teaching research-based methods to minimize the impact people have on the environment. Partners include a variety of land management, outdoor enthusiast and industry organizations, nonprofit groups, institutions of higher learning and others.

Classes will begin in 2020

Preparations are well underway for the new Leave No Trace classes at SIU’s Touch of Nature. Classes will begin there in early 2020. Several sessions will be offered each year.

Watch ton.siu.edu for more information, dates and complete details for classes as the schedule is finalized.

 Learn professional natural resource and environment interpretation

A few months ago, Touch of Nature introduced its inaugural Certified Interpretive Guide training. Gariepy and Bob Carter, National Association of Interpretation trainer, facilitated the training in response to the region’s needs.

“Interpretation is the connective tissue between the land and human beings and doing it well can make the difference in how participants in interpretive programs see their relationship to the planet and environment, something we have chiefly lost as a culture during the last decades,” Gariepy said.

The type of training this program offers harkens back to the earlier days of mankind, when people learned about the great outdoors by experiencing it firsthand.

The environmental education program provides a unique, hands-on outdoor education experience that gives participants the knowledge to interpret what they see, hear, smell and feel, learning to investigate and appreciate along the way. After completing the course they, in turn, are prepared to interpret and share the outdoor environment with others.

In addition to outdoor professionals and enthusiasts, SIU students are also the beneficiaries of this training as it is appreciated by a variety of prospective employers, Gariepy said.

Registration underway for next class

Professionals from Giant City Park, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, the United States Forest Service, the Southern Illinois Master Naturalist Program and Touch of Nature were joined by professionals from northern and central Illinois, including the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and the Douglas Hart Nature Center for the first multi-day training a few months ago.

Another session is set for Nov. 1-4 at Touch of Nature, located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road. The classes will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and Carter will again be the class instructor.

What takes place

The 32-hour course includes:

  • The history, definition and principles of interpretation.
  • Tips on making programs relevant, enjoyable, organized and intentional.
  • Ideas for incorporating various ideas into programming while effectively presenting and communicating it.
  • Preparation for the open-book interpretive guide certification examination and other requirements, including a 10-minute presentation.

Cost includes many extras

The complete registration fee is $415 and that covers:

  • Instruction and the Certified Interpretive Guide Training Workbook.
  • Certification fees.
  • A one-year professional or student National Association for Interpretation membership. Current members will have a one-year renewal added to their membership.

Anyone wanting to participate in the workshop only, without obtaining the certification or the NAI membership, will pay $265. In addition, any full-time student can receive a discounted price for the certification by contacting Carter (bob@interpworld.com) or Gariepy at (mammoth@siu.edu) to get the discount code prior to completing the online registration form.

For an additional charge, participants can stay on site during the workshop.

For details about onsite lodging and meals along with pricing, visit ton.siu.edu, call 618/453-1121 or email tonec@siu.edu.

Sign up now

Register online at interpnet.com by clicking on certification and training, then certification course calendar and then clicking the November dates for the Touch of Nature session.

To obtain more information about the course, contact Carter at bob@interpworld.com. For questions about the training site, email Gariepy at mammoth@siu.edu.