Discovery Center Volunteers

Making Prints with Discovery Day Volunteer
VIP Cindy making wildlife prints with children at Disocvery Days

NPS Photo

Discovery Center Volunteers
July 5, 2014
Walking up to Moraine Park's Discovery Center, I heard the best thing that can be uttered when an adult is trying to hold a child's attention for an extended period of time: "That's so cool!" I rounded the corner, right outside the entrance, and found Cindy Cain and Tom Cavanagh, two Rocky volunteers, sprawled out on a blue tarp with a passel of kids and about a dozen rubber molds of various animal footprints. With a simple mixture of water, sand, and plaster, the kids were hard at work making plaster casts of the footprints. While the families walked through the Discovery Center, the plaster dried, and when they reemerged the footprints were ready to be taken home. That kid was right; it was cool.

 
Print Making at the Discovery Center
Kids hard at work making plaster casts of animal footprints.

NPS Photo

Every Tuesday, the staff and volunteers at the Discovery Center host a different series of themed activities for kids to complete as they wander through the area. The volunteers have interacted with visitors from around the country and the globe; Cindy mentioned a girl she met this season who had come all the way from Israel. Cindy has been participating in Discovery Days for the past three years, and both her and Tom work with the Education and Outreach snowshoeing groups during the winter months. Since the program had a year-long hiatus last year, everyone involved is happy to be back out working with kids to help them have a better understanding of their Rocky Mountain surroundings.

While the first round of kids waited for their plaster casts to set, I ventured indoors to talk with the volunteers who help visitors as they walk through the exhibits. There was a wealth of accessible information about a number of topics, including the geology, ecology, and history of the park. Colleen Culbertson, who is working her first season at Rocky and spends most of her time in the Discovery Center, greeted me at the front desk. The majority of her time is occupied with the duties of answering questions and helping visitors, an aspect of her job that she thoroughly enjoys. After being here for only a week, I have already encountered dozens of ways in which the volunteers go above and beyond what is asked to ensure that visitors have an enriching experience at the park. Colleen's story was yet another illustration of how fantastic this group of people is.

 
Volunteer Colleen working hard behind the information desk at Moraine Park Dicovery Center
Volunteer Colleen working hard behind the information desk at Moraine Park Dicovery Center

NPS Photo

 
Volunteer Carolyn helping with Discovery Days
Volunteer Carolyn helping with Discovery Days

NPS Photo

Stationed at the top of the stairs in the museum, Caroline Smith, who has been working in Environmental Education at the park for 16 years, told me that she most enjoys the fact that she gets to work with kids. During her own childhood, she spent a lot of time playing outside in the mountains, and having the opportunity to pass those experiences on to the children that come through is something she finds satisfying about this position at the Discovery Center. She emphasized the importance of ensuring that information is given to the parents as much as the kids.

As I continued through the Discovery Center, I talked with Evelyn Vittone, who has been working with the Junior Ranger program for the last two years. She lives locally and was also involved in flood relief detail last year. For Evelyn, the most important aspect of the job is to get kids out in nature, and the rewarding feeling of being able to witness their integration into their surroundings is an added bonus. I asked her if she feels that most of the families coming through the Discovery Center encourage that in their own children; she does see that connection happen frequently in the groups that pass through, and said that in some ways those who come to the Discovery Center seem to be the ones that already "get it." My final question to Evelyn was to ask her what she would want the kids to leave the Discovery Center with; that core piece of information to keep in mind as they explore Rocky, and she responded with the following: "whether it's in the city or the country, preserve the nature around you." I was happy to see this sentiment alive and well among the visitors moving through the Moraine Park Discovery Center, and am excited to witness how the rest of the season will unfold as I continue to have the opportunity to meet our park's great volunteers!

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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Estes Park, CO 80517

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Through winter, the Information Office is open 8:00 am–4:30 pm Mon–Fri. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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