In the last two years, Helen M. Richick has learned how to tap syrupfrom a maple tree, identify insects found under rocks and test the quality of water.
She also learned how to pick up snakes.
"There was a time I wouldn't pick up a snake," the Joppa residentsaid. "Now, I have no problem."
Richick is a volunteer at HarfordGlen, a 325-acre environmental education center in Abingdon that enables schoolchildren to take a walk on the wild side of nature. She and fellow volunteer Carol Kehring are putting together a program aimedat bringing in more volunteers to help out.
Called Volunteers areImportant People, the program seeks to attract volunteers from civicgroups and county employers, then provide them with training.
Richick and Kehring, who volunteer up to 20 hours a week, are developingthe VIP program with a $1,575 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
The center is planning to launch the program Thursday with the first of two training workshops. The second session is set for March 18.
Area residents and companies interested in volunteering at HarfordGlen can call 569-0670. The center is looking for all kinds of volunteers to help with duties that include leading youths on nature hikes, typing letters and helping maintain the grounds.
Over the years,the Harford Glen staff has been assisted by a small core of volunteers, but had little time to train them until the VIP program was developed, said Dennis L. Kirkwood, the facility's teacher-in-charge.
Harford Glen, owned by the county school system, uses a staff of four to provide environmental education programs to nearly 12,000 studentsduring the 180-day school year. The sessions include nature walks, canoe trips and wildlife lessons.
With more volunteers, Harford Glen will be able to play a larger role in the community, providing programs and services for adults and conservation groups, Kirkwood said.
At the training workshops, administrators will give volunteers a taste for the kinds of projects available at the facility. They also plan to take volunteers on canoe trips and provide them with a lesson on wetlands, information they can pass on to visitor.
Kehring, also of Joppa, said the center's staff will teach anyone how to do anything.
Volunteers interested in leading nature walks, for example, will learn that their main chore will be to instruct youths on being quiet and listening to the sounds of nature.
Instead of talking about the wonders of nature, volunteers will learn how to simply point to those treasures and let visitors experience them for themselves.
"You become a nature interpreter," Kehring said. "I can't tell you how wonderful it is to walk down a trail and experience nature."
Kehring, who has a degree in biology, stresses that the volunteers needno special training to work at Harford Glen.
"It's hands-on experience," Kehring said. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist. You basically need two things -- an excitement in the outdoors and an interest in children."