PINEY RUN NATURE Center is staffed by naturalists who are Jacks-of-all-trades.
They are educators who teach and interpret natural history for public and private groups and teach about local natural phenomena; artists who demonstrate crafts and building exhibits; and trainers who prepare volunteers for duties, teach boating skills and promote safety.
Deanna Hofmann came to the nature center in 1986 from a center in Montgomery County. She works on curricula, provides programs for the campers and is responsible for the summer day camp for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Hofmann runs many of the programs with the other naturalists. Programs include Lake Study and Insects, Birds in Winter, Animal Homes and Native Americans.
The nature center also offers space for Scout groups after school and sponsors a Scout Day in October, during which all Scout groups - Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies - can work toward badges.
Hofmann also runs the after-school Outdoor Rangers program for children ages 6 to 9.
The most popular program at the nature center is Mother Nature, Mom and Me, geared to children 4 to 5 years old and their parents. The program is run by Lynette Lenz, a seasonal naturalist at the center.
Lenz has a degree in environmental sciences and teaches about animals such as spiders (like the black widow, seen frequently during the year), snakes and reptiles. Lenz started as a volunteer at the center before being hired as a seasonal naturalist. She has been teaching the Mother Nature course for 10 years. In some cases, she is teaching the third or fourth child of the same family.
Lenz's three children are graduates of the course. She says that when children start learning about nature early, they absorb much, and develop an appreciation and respect for the environment.
The program, meant for parents as well as children, is designed to foster a generation that is environmentally aware and caring.
Mother Nature, Mom and Me is followed by Hofmann's Outdoor Rangers and the Ecology Club for children ages 10 to 14. Children in the Ecology Club go kayaking, learn how to make maple syrup by tapping trees and help maintain the grounds of the center.
All the naturalists lead boat tours and train student tour guides. They also run school programs, either at the school or at the center as school field trips. These programs have become so popular throughout the region that the center has had to limit them to Carroll County schools.
Nature center trips
Along with its many programs and events, Piney Run Nature Center also sponsors trips.
Sept. 26: Sailing on the Dee of St. Mary's. A natural history tour aboard the 56-foot skipjack on the St. Mary's River.
Oct. 8-9: A plantation tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia. Participants will tour a vineyard and participate in a tasting.
Oct. 20: Kayak trip on the Potomac River.
Nov. 6: Birding trip to Bombay Hook. Participants will witness the fall migration of many species, including snow geese.
The nature center is home to several injured birds that have been rescued but cannot be returned to the wild.
A red-tailed hawk named Sadie Hawkins is estimated to be more than 30 years old. The life span of a hawk in the wild is about eight years.
A red-shouldered hawk named Tomahawk, a great horned owl named Mr. Hoots, two barred owls and a pair of vultures also live at the sanctuary.
Elaine Sweitzer cares for the birds and conducts many of the programs at the center.
Mission trip fund-raiser
Faith Lutheran Church on St. Andrews Way in Eldersburg is sponsoring a dinner to raise money for a two-week mission trip to Belize from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Traditional foods of Belize will be served.
Tickets are $15 per plate or $40 maximum per family.
Information: Nancy Stiegler at 410-795-0410.
Debra Taylor-Young's Southeast neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.