Deaf master naturalist shares passion for outdoors with kids at Crofton library

Deaf Master Naturalist Jen Muro leads a lesson on horseshoe crabs at Crofton Community Library's Nature Explores Club.
Deaf Master Naturalist Jen Muro leads a lesson on horseshoe crabs at Crofton Community Library's Nature Explores Club. (Melissa Driscoll Krol / Correspondent)

Jen Muro's love for nature fueled a career that can't be slowed.

The Crofton Community Library's Natures Explorers Club Leader is a certified master naturalist and wildlife animal caretaker. She was born deaf.


"Being deaf had everything to do with my love of nature," Muro said. "My mother exposed me to nature a lot. Being deaf growing up we didn't have closed caption. I was outside dawn to dusk and my parents had to come find me as they couldn't call my name."

Muro said people in school made unrealistic demands on her. She said she was dismissed because of her deafness.


"(They) would put my questions off," she said. "In Mother Nature, I could see her and I could feel her. It was my escape, my refuge, forest, beach, wheat fields, everything."

The Natures Explorers Club covered horseshoe crabs last week. The lesson began with Muro sitting on the floor with the children. Muro was animated and excited as she taught through discussion with the children and reinforcing her teachings with a power point presentation.

A sign language interpreter was present who Muro would look to in the event she couldn't read a child's lips. After a 30-minute discussion and introduction to the topic of horseshoe crabs, which included crab shells, the children went outside for an outdoor activity and later returned for a craft.

Muro hopes the Nature Explorers Club will spread worldwide.

"I know what it feels like to parent, juggling jobs," Muro said. "Nature is missing from all of our lives. It's not really realistic where we are [to be outdoors]. You have to get in your car and drive to nature.

"People work so much they don't have the time. I hope that the hamster wheel of life stops and people can look at a dandelion, feel the breeze, feel the sun. Attendance is very low at nature centers. It's important to bring nature to parents and kids."

Muro's father was active duty Army and away for long periods of time. Her mother was a wildlife rehabilitator.

"I learned a lot from her. My mother was a great teacher of animals and nature," Muro said. "Nature and animals were my comforters. I didn't have to struggle to read lips. I was always inquisitive, and nature was my favorite place and I got all the answers in the books I could read."

Muro doesn't miss the old days. She's embraced her deafness.

"I like how things have changed," Muro said. "I love being deaf. I wouldn't trade it. Technology has been fantastically helpful. Typing on the computer people are more compassionate.

'I've also noticed people who love the outdoors have a lot of patience with me. Teaching everything from kayaking to plant identification, they had more patience."

In contrast, Muro says people out of nature have no patience for her.


"It's a misconception that all deaf people can read lips," she said.

Muro said there are a variety of ways to communicate with the deaf, including tapping, waving, flipping the lights on and off, gesturing, pointing, typing, texing and writing, "even if it's on a cocktail napkin or receipt." Muro has found many individuals unwilling to make an effort.

Muro said being deaf makes her calm. She enjoys the silence. She said whe was forced to wear hearing aids as a child and experienced health issues with her head and stomach.

"Without the hearing aids all the problems went away," Muro said. "I found that to be common in the deaf community."

Muro was certified as a Master Naturalist by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and has a Bachelors Degree in Biology from Gallaudet University.

Master Naturalists must return every year to keep their nature skills sharp and updated. The training is hands-on and includes field trips to different areas, including the Allegheny mountains and piedmont area and can also focus on animals such as deer, bear or horseshoe crabs. Members must also commit to 40 hours of community service a year.

Garden Party Tour

The Crofton Village Garden Club is hosting a self-guided Garden Party Tour of some of Crofton and Gambrills finest gardens on Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. rain or shine. Ten local gardens will be featured, each with a different theme.

The botanical displays are either unique, whimsical or classical and include everything from Royal Wedding to Fairy Garden to the Magic of Water. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by emailing to CVGCEvent@yahoo.com. A map and directions to gardens will be provided as well as directions to Historic Linthicum Walks in Gambrills where refreshments will be served.

Ticket purchases will go to CVGC club projects.


The Odenton Volunteer Fire Company's annual Carnival opens May 22. It runs until May 28. All you can ride bracelets are $25. The carnival opens at 6 p.m. May 22-25. On May 26-27, it opens at 5 p.m. ON May 28, it opens at 4 p.m. with a parade at 5 p.m.

Call 410-674-4444 for more information. This is the OVFC largest fundraiser. The OVFC is at 1425 Annapolis Road.

Melissa Driscoll Krol can be reached at aroundcrofton@gmail.com and on Facebook at Around Crofton.

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