Well, it’s that time of year again. The temperatures have dropped, the leaves have fallen, and the long, cold days of winter are just around the corner.

People, like wildlife, have different ways of coping with these seasonal changes. Some folks turn tail and, like migratory birds, head south; some hunker down and, like woodchucks, hibernate. And then there are those people who, like squirrels, stay active all winter long.

If you’re squirrelly and proud of it, or just like to stay busy, we’ve got just the program for you: Kane County Certified Naturalists. Part outdoor education, part social network and part self-help group for incurable nature nerds, KCCN is a year-long program designed for adults who want to learn more about the natural history of our great county and find out about ways to put that knowledge to good use.

The 2020-21 session gets underway with six weeks of core classes on Tuesday nights in January and February. We begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 with an overview of the science of ecology, then in subsequent weeks delve into Kane County ecosystems, geology, climate and resource management. The classroom portion of the program – which includes a potluck supper each week – is followed by four Saturday field trips in April, May and June. During these excursions, class members visit area parks, forest preserves and museums that best illustrate the concepts discussed during class.

From there, you’ll have until May 2021 to complete an additional 15 hours of advanced coursework (our Learn from the Experts classes or other approved providers) plus 15 hours of your choice of either more LFEs, or volunteer service at any of three participating agencies – the Kane County Forest Preserve District and/or the Geneva and St. Charles park districts. After that, it’s on to graduation and your new life as an official KCCNer. Your one-time fee of $300 covers your costs for the entire year, as well as a certificate and nifty polo shirt once you complete the requirements.

Rave reviews

That’s it as far as nuts and bolts. But maybe you’d like to hear what past participants have to say about their experiences. Here’s a sampling from our most recent post-course survey:

"The instructors were very knowledgeable and added much to the content. I was very pleased with the depth of materials covered. Really looking forward to the field trips to learn even more."

"A great way to connect to our Kane County forest preserves and nature centers, while reviewing the dynamic forces that formed them."

"KCCN provides an awesome opportunity to learn about Kane County's environment and inhabitants, expanding our ability to respect and support it properly."

"Through the KCCN coursework, I learned more about the area in which we live, the interactions in the natural world and lasting effects changes can have, and ways to become more involved in being a citizen scientist. My love of nature has flourished even more!"

Registration details

Heard enough? Want to sign up? All registrations are processed through the Geneva Park District. Click on the Register Now tab at www.genevaparks.org, then click Browse Activities and use the keyword "Certified" in the search box. Alternatively, you can call 630-232-4542 or register in person at Sunset Community Center, 710 Western Ave., Geneva. Center hours are 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.