We have so enjoyed working with Ana Ilse Benavides Lahnstein, St Nicks Volunteer Environmental Education Assistant. Here she shares a bit about herself, her time at St Nicks, and her exciting new role at the Natural History Museum.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: My name is Ana Ilse. Like most humans, I spend my days searching for survival and connection with others. I can be a little bit of a daydreamer, yet I like to focus and pay attention to what really matters. With no intention to discredit my upbringing, it was nature that taught me to pay attention. Somehow spending hours as a child looking at insects and playing in nature is deeply connected to my appreciation for biodiversity, the many expressions of life and learning to care for others. Nature, besides all my social world, was and will always be where I became and where I rediscover the meaning of my humanity.
Q: What drew you to the St Nicks’s Volunteer Education Assistant role?
A: I have studied environmental education for a while and was very interested in more practical learning in the field. St Nicks was not my local nature reserve since I am originally from Mexico. However, St Nicks’ story of how it became a local nature reserve deeply impressed and inspired me.
Q: What’s the best thing about volunteering at St Nicks?
A: Finding a committed culture of friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced people that put passion into caring for the reserve and helping people to recognise their connection to nature. St Nicks is a place for experimenting, healing, challenging yourself and expanding your horizons; there is a wide array of activities to take part and contribute.
Q: Can you share a bit about Environmental Education?
A: Many others have helped me form an understanding of environmental education and how to create learning opportunities for it. There is no big mystery behind understanding what environmental education is, however, it has been hard to have people agreeing on what it encompasses, what it targets and how to put it in practice. From an academic point of view, environmental education is a body of different educational practices to help us recognise and respond to our relationship with the environment at different scales and dimensions. From a personal point of view, environmental education is a pathway to looking into who we are and what we do in where we are. Getting involved in environmental education is an invitation to know and change yourself through and for the environment in all its shapes and forms.
Q: Tell us about your new job.
A: I am an educational researcher, and recently I was given a fantastic opportunity to join an international team of researchers and practitioners who are working together in an project called LEARN CitSci. We, researchers and practitioners of LEARN CitSci, are working to maximise our understanding of how young people develop Environmental Science Agency through their participation in Citizen Science programs at Natural History Museums. LEARN CitSci is funded through the Science Learning+ initiative, a partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Wellcome with the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ERSC). What I love about my new job are the people, the targets involved and its connection to environmental education. Citizen science has links to environmental education in that anyone can be part of them, and they both attempt to revolutionise how we participate and make decisions about our world – find out more.
Q: What would you say to people who are thinking of volunteering with us?
A: I would say do it! It does not matter if you are not sure what you want to do in St Nicks or what you can contribute with, just show up, be there and take part. The friendly people of St Nicks will help you find your jig.
Q: Lastly, a surprising fact you’d like to share!
A: I can dance for a looong time while balancing a hula hoop!