By Carolyn Semedo-Strauss
When I read on the Arlington Regional Master Naturalist listserv several weeks back about an advanced training opportunity on botany, “Let’s Scope it Out! Advanced Botany.” I excitedly signed up. A little bit too eager, I missed that the word “advanced” modified “botany,” though it also qualified as advanced training.
As the class began, I planted myself at a table with a microscope, various texts, handouts, and plant samples. Once our instructor, Emily Ferguson, began speaking, I realized immediately that I was in over my head.
While a lot of the terminology drifted in one ear and out the other and feelings of inadequacy washed over me, I confessed my error to my learned table-mate, who reassured me that we would all be learning something new. Indeed, I did!
While I was weak on plant ID and terminology, I let my curiosity by my guide. I grabbed the razor blade and a pair of tweezers and began slicing as directed. As one of my classmates put it, looking at anything under a microscope is fun. How true!
Not only did I learn a good bit about plants and their many parts, I reconnected with fellow naturalists who were part of my initial training, was infected by the energy and enthusiasm of our instructor, and I scored a few points with my two elementary school-age kids who happened to be studying plants and their parts as well! I’ve actually been able to apply some of what I learned in other volunteer settings.
Lesson learned: get out and get involved! Even if you think you are in over your head, fellow naturalists offer lots of support and enthusiasm and will help to keep you afloat. And, you are sure to learn something new!
Special thanks to Kaythi Han for the amazing photos used in this post and to Emily Ferguson for the fun and educational class!