You don’t stop learning because you grow old; you grow old because you stop learning.
When we spotted this slogan in a café in a remote town in Colorado years ago, we realized that one key to youth is continuing education. Influenced by this objective, we recently purchased a small home near Tucson, Arizona, where abundant opportunities for volunteering and learning exist.
Live-on versus Real Volunteers
For the past seven years, we have been “live-on” volunteers, obliged to work a required number of hours to whatever refuge or agency offered us a space to park our RV and give us hookups to run the rig. Living in our own home, however, allows us to be “real” volunteers, as a friend of mine likes to refer to those who give of their time without any consideration in return. Consequently, we hope to spread our volunteer time over two or three groups and institutions to broaden our experience, as well as take advantage of classes and programs that expand and complement our interests.
Our first choice for volunteering near Tucson was Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge /(BANWR) where we had previously presented several snake programs to schools and helped with the Annual Grasslands Fair. But because BANWR is over 60 miles from our house, we plan to limit our time there to occasional special events and school programs in and around Tucson.
The Sonoran Desert Museum is fairly close to our house, and their expertise on the Sonoran Desert is well respected. For now we plan to take advantage of the classes and activities the Museum offers, a few of which we have already experienced such as a two-day course entitled “The Natural History of the Sonoran Desert,” as well as several keeper talks offered each day.
Even closer to us is Saguaro National Park, the northwest section. Exploring the visitor center at Saguaro and talking with staff and volunteers made us feel welcome and comfortable. After checking out the schedule of programs, we decided to attend “Snakes: The Slither Factor” presented by Park Ranger Philip Brown. We’ve been to programs in other parks and institutions, some of which were outstanding, some of which were average, some of which bordered on embarrassing. Ranger Brown’s program was everything we hoped for, and we came away with a better understanding of the snake population of the area. It was obvious that he knew his subject intimately.
We returned the next day for a presentation by Park Ranger Donna Gill called “Neighborhood Characters.” In her program, Ranger Gill introduced visitors to different plants and related them to stores and people we might find in our own neighborhoods. “This creosote bush could be considered a pharmacy,” she said. “It provided native people with what they needed to treat their diseases.”
Saguaro National Park offers us continuing education, hiking experiences, and volunteer opportunities that we hope to explore.
Expanding the Mind
While we have educated school children, winter visitors, and other travelers over the past seven years, we’re finding it refreshing to be able to expand our own education. And as we engage in continuing education for ourselves, as well as continuing to educate others with our snakes and skulls, we keep in mind advice we once received from a doctor: “If you’ve got it moving, keep it moving.” Even though he was referring to physical parts of the body, we now know that it also applies to our minds!