Jokingly, St. Louis Park councilman Jake Spano said it was the best view the public would get of City Council all year.
That's because more than 20 local kids packed in front of the council's desk on Monday night, garnering recognition for their work as Junior Naturalists.
In total, 66 youngsters in grades 7-12 have worked at the nature center this summer. By the end of the season, they will have volunteered more than 1,600 hours. Several of the older volunteers have been involved for up to six years.
Junior Naturalists can work in one of five areas:
- Animal Care: Junior Naturalists feed, care for, and handle Westwood’s display and programming animals, including three snakes, a box turtle, a tarantula, tree frogs, a skunk, and others. This includes cleaning cages, monitoring the animals’ general health, and educating the public with basic animal information.
- Program Aide: Junior Naturalists assist staff members with supervising and running Westwood’s various summer camps and programs. This includes setting up, directing games, supervising hikes and other activities, cleaning up, and interacting with a diverse range of children.
- Trail Phenology: Junior Naturalists hike Westwood’s trails, learn to identify various animals and plants, and record sightings and seasonal changes over the course of the summer. The information gathered on their hikes allows for the tracking of long-term environmental trends at a local level.
- Bird Feeding and Projects: Junior Naturalists maintain and refill Westwood’s birdfeeders, ensuring they always attract birds for the enjoyment of the public. They also complete various projects such as updating the interpretive center’s insect displays, light trail maintenance, and raising polyphemus moth caterpillars.City Council Meeting of August 6, 2012 (Item No. 2a) Page 2 Subject: Westwood Hills Nature Center Junior Naturalist Recognition
- Pond Maintenance: Junior Naturalists maintain and monitor Westwood’s new water garden with the intent of displaying it to the public and developing it over multiple years. Activities include cleaning debris and removing algae, planting and watering native trees, shrubs and grasses, and maintaining water levels.
Mayor Jeff Jacobs said the Junior Naturalists really help Westwood be the great place that it is.
“This is one of my favorite parts of the year,” he said of Monday's recognition.