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Park Perspectives: Peck naturalist named Geneva Park District ‘Top Dog’

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 28, 2014 2:44 p.m. CDT

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Each month at the Geneva Park District, our staff selects a “Top Dog,” someone who has gone above and beyond their job description to further enhance our programs and facilities.

For January, Kim Bohannon, the new naturalist at Peck Farm Park, was selected as “Top Dog” for her outstanding work on the “Trees of Illinois” exhibit.

So, what is a naturalist anyway? A naturalist studies natural history, specifically through the observation of plants and animals in their natural surroundings. A naturalist’s field of expertise spans from biology, ecology, zoology and geology to the earth sciences and aquatic ecosystems.

But at Peck, a naturalist does much more than just studying.

Kim Bohannon is best described as a lifelong learner. Her career path has included working for newspapers, radio and even television (once); a master’s degree in elementary education; managing 110 employees at a nursing home; selling and studying DSLR cameras; two summers as a Peck summer camp counselor; and a year of coordinating Peck’s volunteers and camps. This fall, she accepted Peck’s full-time naturalist position.

“I love it here,” she declared in the historic Peck House’s exhibit aside Zed the snake, goldfish and a frog found on Peck’s grounds. “This place is amazing!”

Bohannon’s passion is sharing Peck’s natural wonders with the community and engaging the public in natural education with exciting exhibits and programs.

For the “Trees of Illinois” exhibit, she designed interactive learning stations, a creative take-home craft and even built a life-sized tree for children to explore. The exhibit teaches visitors about the importance of trees, the benefits they provide and what happens under their bark. There’s still time to see this free, all-ages exhibit. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Orientation Barn through Friday.

Bohannon believes natural education is important and often lacking in school curriculum. “[Children] need to learn how it works out here,” she said. “They don’t need to be afraid of animals and the outdoors. They need to learn to respect and understand the natural world.”

Programs designed by Bohannon disguise learning as play. She utilizes humor to engage participants, spark imagination and inspire curiosity.

Not quite grown up yet, Bohannon laughed.

“I’m really just a big kid. I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself, if it means they’re learning something. Generally, it’s pretty effective,” she said.

Because the natural world has so much to offer, classes are a fantastic value. For as little as $5, participants might read a story, take a guided hike and create a nature-inspired craft – all while discovering something new.

Inspired by the new Hawks Hollow Nature Playground, Bohannon has created a variety of birthday parties for kids looking to celebrate on the wild side. Themes include Pirates of the Prairie, Wet-n-Wild, Butterflies and more. Bohannon has hosted these parties with great results. 

“[The kids] don’t realize they’re learning, but they are,” she said. “Both the kids and parents leave extremely happy.”

Beyond birthday parties, Peck  Farm Park offers youth and toddler classes, family programs, special events and summer camps to get you connecting with nature.

Peck Farm Park is located at 4038 Kaneville Road in Geneva. To find out more about what’s happening at Peck, visit genevaparks.org or call 630-232-4542.

Bohannon believes if you haven’t experienced Peck yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.

“I think you’ll be blown away,” she said.

• Natalie Seidel is marketing coordinator for the Geneva Park District and can be reached at 630-232-4542. Email her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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