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Wendy Irwin, Youth Education Manager: Enthusiastically sharing her biology expertise with our youth

By: Anni Jack, Adult Education Coordinator | 07/25/2022

As I sit at my Garden desk each week, the first greetings I usually have are the sound of children and families not too far from my window. The excitement is evident in their laughter and bustle (umm, with camps titled Wizarding Camp and Outback Camp, who wouldn’t be!?) as they wait for their Garden adventures to start. We have reached the middle of our summer youth season and Wendy recently had a rare free moment, so I thought it would be a perfect time to have her highlighted in our blog.

Wendy was born into a nature-centered family that spent a lot of time in the outdoors – an experience that directly correlates to the biology degree she achieved as a young adult. She was initially an art major, but that wouldn’t surprise you if you’ve seen her drawings on signs and youth materials – she is talented and has helped me out with visuals in my own class!  But, her true love is evident in the path that she has tread…

🌿Rainier weed management and meadow restoration. This is where her interest in plants began!

🌿Field work at the Rocky Mountain research station.

🌿Southern Nevada cleaning up illegal dumpsites.

🌿Wendy’s first time stepping into environmental education with her ‘Rock Talks.’ She found out that her introverted-self found talking to groups could be fun.

🌿A Wyoming watershed measuring water and monitoring vegetative regrowth in burned areas.

🌿Volunteer coordinator with Americorp at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. As Wendy took on a new adventure having a child, her ability to travel was limited and she took this local position

As she filled in her time with substitute teaching, Wendy got word of an IBG position that ended up being a great fit with her expertise and experience – Youth Education Coordinator!  In this role, she provides activity ideas like games, stories, and walks in The Garden as well as support to our Garden teachers. Teachers get to bring themselves and their creativity to their position while volunteers are often found prepping crafts in the shady spots of our beautiful setting.

A teacher introduces the Veggie Monster

Summer camps continue for 6 weeks until August 5th and one of Wendy’s favorites is the Wizarding Camp. She tells me that it takes biological topics like metamorphosis and turns them into magical topics like transfiguration. Campers even get to play games like Harry Potter’s quidditch!  As summer camp comes to a close, the summer season ends with Bug Day, a family affair on August 20th that brings the joy and fascination of insects to IBG. Come see local and exotic bugs, live beehives, a larger-than-human mantis that meanders through the Garden, and so much more!  Check it out here:

Bug Day!

What is next on Wendy’s calendar? In this triple-digit heat, it is hard to imagine that fall is not too far away! She loves the cooler season, the colorful Garden filled with scarecrows, and of course fall field trips, which align with Idaho science standards and get kids exploring the great outdoors. The Garden offers themed field trips for different grades, but you may also request a custom tour (at no extra cost) that meets the needs of your group!

The Koi pond, a highlight of our visitors young and old!

Wendy describes her job as getting to be in “pretty outdoor spaces, poke around in bugs and dirt, and share my enthusiasm with kids.” That sounds like a great fit for Wendy, and I know that her excitement and joy is visible to your children in her youth education programming at the Idaho Botanical Garden! Join us for Bug Day on August 20th, schedule a fall group field trip or customized tour, or even reserve into the spring season. We look forward to passing on the excitement of our natural world!

Wendy with one of her favorite IBG plants, Mountain mahogany

Wendy Irwin
wendy@idahobotanicalgarden.org; 208.275.8612