Volunteer to become a Seattle Urban Nature Guide
Observing and classifying plants and animals, peeking into their cycles of life, leading strolls through nature, exploring natural history with others -- sound like a walk in the park? Then, becoming a Volunteer in the Seattle Urban Nature Guide program might be just for you.
Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) is currently recruiting for the Seattle Urban Nature Guide (SUN Guide) program. The on-line application deadline is Thursday, March 21.
SUN Guides train with Seattle Parks and Recreation Staff to learn about our flora and fauna, acquiring knowledge and techniques to engage others in the love of nature. These volunteers are then charged with leading hands-on activities for children and adults in Parks and other green spaces around Seattle.
“We hope to attract new folks to realizing the magic of volunteering on behalf of Nature,” Seattle Urban Nature Guide Elaine Chuang said.
She joined as a volunteer in 2016. “I’m a living example of an enthusiastic volunteer for Parks, particularly for environmental education,” she said. “Since childhood, I’ve been a lover of nature.” Moving into retirement, Chuang started spending more and more free time in greenspaces, and especially in Discovery Park. She is an avid bird lover, and it didn’t take long in pursuit of feathered friends before she encountered a SUN Guide who encouraged her to join the ranks.
Sharing her love of nature with others seemed the natural next step. She signed up and has been a committed Guide ever since. “I’ve been deeply bitten by the bug and the joy of passing along something you love,” Chuang said. “And being able to do so just as we encounter her right here in our Seattle Parks is almost unbelievable.”
Chuang particularly enjoys leading school groups throughout the city, exploring sites from West Seattle’s Camp Long to Me-Kwa-Mooks’ seashore. She enjoys helping students appreciate molehills, salamander eggs and different types of trees. And of course birds.
“This program, in so many ways, molds great attitudes for all parks, and particularly with youngsters, it’s a way for us to plant seeds in those fertile and available minds,” Chuang said. “My favorite activities have to be our school programs, which is also where we are most in need of new Volunteers. These are people who love being the teacher they wish they each had had years ago.”
SUN Guides lead school students in nature experiences in which the theme of each trip varies with the location and changing seasons. Guides also offer educational activities during special events, like the Duwamish River Festival and the Big Day of Play.
Chuang said that Seattleites become Urban Nature Guides for a variety of reasons, from the camaraderie of fellow volunteers who share an interest in the environment to the opportunity to connect students with the natural world.
“There’s a true sense of making a difference to groups of people, and you get to do it with the intention of focusing on your own backyard,” Chuang said. “True, there’s an altruistic streak in SUN Guides, but without question, it’s personally hugely rewarding.”
She enjoys the formal training, a springboard to one’s own studies, enriched by ongoing opportunities to dive deeper into the flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest.
Penny Rose, educator with Seattle Parks and Recreation, is one of the founders of the Seattle Urban Nature Guide program. “Volunteers bring something unique to the table,” she said. “They have a true passion for what they do.”
Rose added that the Guides come from diverse backgrounds and add their own variety of ideas and interests to the program. SPR and SUN Guides partner with schools like Roxhill Elementary School and Louisa Boren STEM, and also pursue opportunities with the Duwamish Longhouse and other entities across Seattle.
Seattle Urban Nature Guides complete a training program in the spring, and additionally train in the fall. Volunteers are required to guide at least eight programs a year.
For more information and to apply on-line (deadline is Thursday, March 21), visit:
I was lucky to have been on a Park's outing with Elaine Chuang along the Longfellow Creek trail. I am familiar with the area but it was a new experience through the eyes of a Nature guide like Elaine. I learned so much and had a great time.