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11-Month AmeriCorps Reflection 2022-23

by Ethan Robison

Showing off ceanothus moth cocoons and chrysali

Hey y’all, it has been a wild 11 months here at PPRV. From the very first day, it has been a fairly constant race from one event, class, or workshop to another. Since September, I have had the chance to develop the Pollinator Pals program here at PPRV, and lead our Education Committee in some exciting directions. All in all, it has been a spectacular year, and I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to learn, create, and grow.

A walk-in customer wanting to know more about our microscope

I learned about PPRV's Pollinator Education & Outreach Specialist position through Jamie Trammel, a wonderful professor at SOU. I thought that the combination of education and bugs was the most amazing sounding work I could be doing. Fast forward a month or two, and I’m suddenly in the middle of planning events, making posters and flyers on Canva, and doing my best to figure out what a Xylacopa is and who on earth a Megachile could be, all while moving out of my apartment into the SOU dorms in the middle of the most crazy time of my life. Through all that, I found that serving at PPRV became a stabilizing constant in my life; a part of my schedule that I could rely on.

As the months went by, the people who make PPRV also became friends and co-workers who I could rely on to be the ray of sunshine in a very gloomy fall. Soon, I didn’t mind rushing from one event to another, from one lesson to the next. The work I was able to be a part of became less of a sprint, and more of a steady jog. With the support of the wonderful PPRV volunteers and community, I have had the chance to do so much, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

With some of the Pollinteers - Christine Freidel, Kristina Lefever (my boss), Deb Vroman, Anne LaFrance, Sharon Bryson, Deanna Mulaskey, and Daniel Jokelson.

One of the highlights of my service term here at PPRV has been building and then leading the Education Committee. Because I enjoy nicknames, we shortened it to “EdComm”, which I find much more enjoyable to say out loud. The people in this group (Sue, Sara, Hannah, and Pete) were chosen because of their experience in the confusing and scary world of education.

Meeting with Sara Enriquez, Sue Fthenakis, and Hannah Borgerson in the PPRV office -- with an infamous cheese tray from The Oregon Cheese Cave!

Pete Gonzalez on scopes at Bellview Elementary School with teacher Angelina Tejada Ingram, and me at second table

All of them have been instrumental not only in the design of various lesson plans, but in their implementation as well. One of the highlights of working with the EdComm was the ambitious and multi-faceted project with Bellview Elementary School. The teachers there had invited us to get their kids engaged with pollinators, and after several delays and cancellations, we managed to put together a pollinator-themed extravaganza for the two 5th grade classes, that we would repeat twice in the day. We had one EdComm member wrangling kids on a tour of the native plants in the garden, another helping kids not break their microscopes while they looked at plant and bug parts, and yet another guiding kids through the seeding process of 5 different native plants. After 4 (maybe more?) hours of workshops, a cold April rain, bug legs, and presentations, the EdComm was left exhausted but invigorated.

Talking bees and pollinators to a 5th grade class at Bellview

A couple days later, we got a response from the teachers we worked with. They were thrilled with the work that the students had done, and were grateful for all the energy the EdComm members had put into making these kids into full-fledged pollinator advocates.

The past 11 months have been filled with lessons and events at various schools and community venues that were only possible through the hard work of the Education Committee. Each member has contributed so much to PPRV's education program, and I have been honored to work with them.

Something that serving at PPRV has taught me is that I am allowed to recognize and celebrate my own accomplishments, which is difficult for someone like me who has a whole bunch of trouble with self-positivity. Throughout this service term, I’ve been given the chance to express myself through classes, presentations, and even lesson plans. All of these, and everything I've worked on through PPRV, has a little bit of myself in it. Learning to take ownership of my accomplishments has been challenging for sure, but in doing so I’ve also become more comfortable with my own self expression. I’ve learned to be more confident in just about every element of my life. Having the space and freedom to express myself in an accepting community has been revolutionary for my sense of self and self-worth. So I wanted to thank PPRV, this community, and the friends I’ve made along the way for helping me grow into the person I am today, and for helping on the path towards becoming the educator I want to be.

Me thinking big at the 2023 Earth Day celebration at Phoenix Industrial Studios

Finally, I want to send out a huge shout-out of appreciation to the folks at United Communities | AmeriCorps for all of their support and guidance over these last 11 months, and to the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation for their awesome grant to PPRV to support me and the Pollinator Pals program!


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