Volunteer Spotlight: Joy Dingley Shares Her Love of Nature with Arizona Urban Youth

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Volunteer Spotlight: Joy Dingley Shares Her Love of Nature with Arizona Urban Youth

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 2:00pm

"Are there snakes?" "Will we get bitten?" "Ugh, there's a spider, kill it!" These are some of the things that Joy Dingley often hears from students at the start of their field trip to the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center.

"If you're lucky," she says, "by the time they have worked their way through the program they will have stopped worrying about snakes, forgotten insect bites, and will quite happily be handling mud, owl pellets, and all the small wiggly creatures we can capture."

Joy is a Teacher Naturalist Assistant at the Audubon Center, which sits in a lush 600-acre restoration area along the Salt Lake River just two miles outside of downtown Phoenix. A big part of her job is giving urban youth the chance to explore the 16 miles of hiking trails, spot some of the 200 bird species and wildlife there, and gain a greater appreciation of nature.

Aside from the beautiful scenery, what Joy cherishes most are the moments that show how much this opportunity means to the students. She recalls on particularly long day. One boy in particularly had been acting up a lot, chasing away the wildlife. At the end of the tour, suddenly he ran to catch up with her.

"You know, Miss," he said, "It was great stroking those dead animals."

It wasn't how Joy and the rest of the staff would normally refer to the specimens of animal pelts, but she knew what the boy meant. He looked over the river banks for a moment, assessing what he saw. He was quiet for a minute or two as if he was weighing something in his mind.

"This place is really neat," he finally said. "This has been the best field trip we've ever been on, ever."

Joy has been involved with the Audubon Center since it opened in October, 2009 sharing her love of bird watching and the outdoors. Like all volunteers, Joy has a knack for thinking of others and looking at the world through the eyes of her students. For many, the experiences they have will last their entire lives. Continue reading…

Click here to read the rest of Joy's story | Read more stories of engagement & social change

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