Al Pak's Story

How did you first get started volunteering with WEN?

“I went to a WEN training and my mind was blown. I had no idea what any of it was. I had no knowledge of anything related to water ecology. It was all new and it was fascinating. And then they pulled out the bugs and they had me!

I studied Geography at U of M and started working at Rhithron in the summer of 2011 after I graduated. That was a lucky find because I didn’t know what I was going to do. I started panicking and found that job posted in the paper. And said, ‘I know how to do that! I can sort bugs for a job, that’s amazing!’ It’s a great job and I don’t think I would have even applied for it had I not done volunteer work with WEN. Thank you WEN! Now I have a great job.”

What kind of things did you learn from working with students at WEN?

“Volunteering with WEN has taught me that kids really benefit from outdoor education. It engages them in the discovery process of learning that helps them form that connection with their environment. I think more teachers should incorporated outdoor learning into their classes. It was also a way for me to start communicating more with people. When I was in school, I didn’t talk much and that continued through to university. So when I started volunteering with WEN, I had something I could talk about. Talking about bugs with kids was a good lesson in communication.”

What kind of school groups have you participated in recently?

“I got a chance to go volunteer at the C.S. Porter [Middle School] where they go down to the Bitterroot River, just down the street from where I work. [Field trips were conducted with Rhithron technicians taking turns on different days to go down to the river to teach the students about their particular expertise.] The kids would walk around to different stations with [micro]scopes set-up [to look at bugs] and it was a lot of fun. I hope we get to do it again. Once I started working at [Rhithron] I ran out of time to volunteer a whole lot, but its nice to do it when I can.”

Is there a memorable experience that you can think of with WEN?

“There were a couple Washington Middle school field trips that come to mind because they knew things I didn't know at the time. They were so prepared and excited to learn more. It was fun to watch.  They taught me a few things that time. I didn’t take any specific ecology classes in college and its cool to see them think things through and ask questions that I also had. That's what I really like about WEN. The aspect of giving the kids this hands on experience down by the river. Because I didn’t get any of that growing up in school. I think I went to all the schools that didn’t participate in WEN activities. It was a real eye opener. 

I believe that WEN’s mission is not only simple in concept, but critical in context. And the fact that they can accomplish all this with the biggest smiles and the most energetic optimism I have ever seen…it’s inspiring.”

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