By Phoebe Myers, For The Miami Student
Sharon Edwards can be a hard woman to reach. She doesn’t own a cell phone, can only hear the landline from two spots in her house, and only checks her e-mail twice a day. Her email address ends in @Roadrunner.com.
You might have a better chance finding her outdoors.
“Where we lived, as a kid, was woods and farm fields so I mean we played outside,” she says. “It’s not like today when you go home and you put yourself into some kind of computer thing, you know we were outside a lot.”
Sharon, an Oxford native, fell in love with nature early on. She was fascinated with the rocks in her grandparents’ gravel driveway and made the most of her rural home.
“There weren’t many kids in my neighborhood so I had more animal friends than people friends,” says Sharon.
She followed her love of nature through schooling, and was further inspired when she met naturalist Larry Henry at Hueston Woods and decided to volunteer there.
“At that point in time they didn’t care if you were only 12 years old,” Sharon says. “You could volunteer without a whole bunch of legal stuff. Now you have to be 21, and sign your life away for it.”
She worked as a naturalist and camp counselor at Glen Helen, a nature preserve in Yellow Springs, Ohio. In 1994, she wanted to reach even more kids than she already was, and created the non-profit, Environmental Mobile Unit (EMU).
EMU has a wide set of programs for kindergarteners through sixth graders. Essentially, Edwards gets into her car and drives to a school nearby, and has a hands-on lesson prepared for lucky students in a certain classroom. First graders might investigate feathers, and fifth graders might conduct pollution tests on local water samples.
Edwards is the sole naturalist working for EMU at this time, getting in her car and leading up to 400 programs a year. Some kids are afraid to sit on the grass, and ask for hand sanitizer when they touch something muddy. Sometimes the hours can seem long.
A little boy came up to her once and said, disgusted, “I don’t like nature.” Then he smiled, and followed it with, “I LOVE nature!”
Other times, the hours aren’t so bad.