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Event: Annual Day of Learning

Tree Identification

September blue is not a paint color option at the home improvement store, though it should be.

September blue is the distinct color of the sky in that imperceptible month between the last heated days of August and the ever so popular start of fall in October. In land management and conservation work, it is the breath between constant labor-intensive work, with all volunteers on deck, and winter when work is at the mercy of the weather. 

Though it is a month of seed collecting, it doesn’t feel like a heavy burden to collect the bounty from the previous planting efforts, because we know we hold the beginning of something new and sustainable in our seed bags. September is also the time we consider what we have learned and what more we want to know.

The last Saturday in September has become the Master Naturalist Day of Learning for Boone, DeKalb and Ogle Counties. For the last few years, they have held this outdoor mini-conference for their Master Naturalists.

Started before the state conference, it is a chance to catch up on much needed continuing education credits in a one-day event. Held at Russell Woods Forest Preserve, in DeKalb County, the rental cabins become the home for the concurrent sessions. The staff provides snacks and beverages while the attendees bring their own lunch, keeping cost at a minimum. Speakers present in the cabins and often take their group outside for additional field training that compliments the presentation.  It is inexpensive enough volunteers can attend both conferences, but also provides opportunities for volunteers who cannot afford to travel or stay away from home.

This year’s virtual reality allowed the staff to reach out to speakers they would not necessarily have in person due to travel costs. Though there was no field time, as in years past, the volunteers were engaged and enjoyed the speakers they otherwise may not have heard, in person, for the Day of Learning.  When the day is synchronous, the volunteers enjoy networking with their Program Coordinators and each other as they pass in the open September sky between the cabins.

September tends to slip by unnoticed by most, but for Master Naturalists it is a time to reflect and learn more about their incredible planet and all the ways they may be able to make a difference as a Master Naturalist volunteer.


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Peggy Doty is an energy and environmental stewardship educator who has been with University of Illinois Extension for more than 20 years. She holds a B.S. in zoology from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Educator from Northern Illinois University. She is interested in human and wildlife interactions, supporting native pollinators and water resources.

Naturalist News is a blog by University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist staff and volunteers who bring you stories highlighting the individuals, places, wildlife and plants that make this state amazing. Join us each week to learn something new, be inspired and become connected to your own community by recognizing the amazing ways we are all intertwined.