Sharing My Passion for Nature by Joyce Fleming

50 Stories for 50 Years

is presented by New Leader Manufacturing

Joyce Fleming (seated front and center in the image above) has served the Indian Creek Nature Center in various capacities for decades, beginning in 1981. Although Joyce’s primary participation at ICNC has been education focused, with a special passion for wetlands, she was also a board member for several years. For her wide-ranging, rich volunteerism, Joyce received a Jack-in-the-Pulpit award in 1986 and a Founders’ award in 2010. In 2022 she and her husband Mark moved to Colorado to be near family. Joyce and Mark have been ICNC lifetime members since 2016.

I participated in teacher-naturalist (TN) training sessions at ICNC starting in Fall 1981. At that time I was teaching, and held both a Masters in Environmental Science and a teaching certificate in secondary education. With any discretionary time I could find, I liked to participate in leading programs at the Center. Back then, TNs led 5th graders from the Cedar Rapids School District, who visited the Nature Center for all-day ecology field trips. In addition to leading programs, at times I also helped with TN recruitment and training, and updating the curriculum. Over time we added more schools and grade levels.

My participation as a TN has been a very enriching part of my life. Presenting programs to children allowed me to use all the science I’d absorbed. I enjoyed the people who, like me, were enthusiastic about the natural world and sharing it with other people – fellow TNs, children, and the public.

At times I had to be elsewhere for a while, choked off from the outdoors and the programs. On my return I noticed how soul starved I was. I enjoyed absorbing the soul cleansing walk out in the Center’s woods or prairie or wetlands, children in tow. The first cleansing breaths were invigorating and renewing. I was back where my passion and soul lived.

It was especially exciting, while I was serving on the board, when ICNC was offered Allsop Woods (a gift from Bob and Beth Allsop). The land abutted our home’s lot, and those acres added to our enjoyment of several non-human neighbors. We have observed bald eagles, hawks, coyotes, all the classic feeder birds, deer, turkey, raccoons, and a pair of pileated woodpeckers!

Among my most memorable experiences at the Nature Center are:

(1)   At the top of my list: the creek exhibit “running” through the Amazing Space exhibit hall.

(2)   Days that included a series of teachable moments that captured the class and allowed them to really experience what we’d hoped for them: an appreciation and more understanding of the natural world. (A prime example is each spring’s new hatch of Canada geese on the wetland island.)

(3)   When I had everyone’s attention and pulled the hog-nosed snake from my pocket.

I am impressed and proud the Center has worked very hard to keep current, presenting and refining new programs to try to touch as many populations as possible. 

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Natural Education by Jan Aiels

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