Skip directly to: Main page content

UC Davis Natural Reserve System

During an outing on animal tracking, a participant gets a look at a lion track.

During an outing on animal tracking, a participant gets a look at a lion track.

Guide @#$ explains the working of a watershed atop the West Ridge at Stebbins Cold Canyon.

Guide Stephen McCord explains the working of a watershed atop the West Ridge at Stebbins Cold Canyon.

Featured Research - Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve

Emily Evans,
School of Education, UC Davis

A Passion for Sharing: Motivations of Volunteer Guides at Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve

Non-formal education programs, such as the Stebbins outings program, commonly rely on a population of experienced and motivated volunteers. As a graduate student in the School of Education focused on non-formal and environmental education, I wanted to find out why these volunteers choose to become and stay involved with the outings program and what type of educative experiences shaped their interests in guiding and in reserve.

To answer these questions, I attended the guide-training program as a participant and observer. I interviewed guides that attended the training, did not attend the training, guides that continue to guide and a few who have never led outings. In the interviews, I asked guides about their initial motivations, experiences leading the outings, outdoor recreation hobbies, and their interest and past experiences with non-formal teaching and learning in outdoor settings.

I found that volunteer guides shared common experiences that connected them with natural environments but their paths to becoming a volunteer guide and their interests in the program were varied. Guides shared an interest in teaching and learning and similar passions for the outdoor environment and all guides pursued multiple forms of outdoor recreation hobbies. However, the personal passions and subject specific interests of the guides drove their interest in guiding and their interactions with the participants on their outings.

Volunteer educators and leaders have the capacity to change how people think about natural resources and their world. While the educational climate is heated by controversy over standardized testing and funding, volunteer informal education programs are free to explore meaningful ways to inform and encourage participation in conservation. The more we understand what motivates volunteer educators and program participants, the more we will connect people with natural places and encourage stewardship.