A Legacy of Learning

Recognizing Longtime CNC Docent Julia Burns

Julia Burns is one of CNC’s longest-tenured volunteers, having served in various roles over the last 13 years. Upon hearing her gentle voice and seeing her warm smile, her role as a lifelong educator who loves children and nature becomes apparent. As a teacher for 42 years, she embraces the belief that “teachers do not teach; they facilitate learning opportunities.” This is at the heart of her work with CNC.

She was first introduced to CNC in the 1980s when she brought her children to the long-running autumn family festival, Halloween Hikes. Back then, the Center had one small building and a fraction of the displays and programs offered today. Yet, this experience instilled in her heart the desire to volunteer, and she brought her children back time and again over several years to feed the ducks, enjoy the honeybee viewing stations, and have picnics. According to Julia, every visit to CNC is unique. Visitors can choose to be introspective and reflective, or they can choose to engage and interact. In either case, “CNC is a safe space, both emotionally and physically. You can choose to experience it solo or with others.” She goes on to say, “Everything CNC does offers enrichment and clarification and dispels misconceptions. It is a place to think critically, to build relationships and community.”

Now a Docent, Julia is often seen on campus with her biofacts cart filled with animal pelts, snake skins, and raptor feathers, among other interesting educational pieces. She takes special care to engage the adults that accompany children. “Parents are a child’s first teacher,” she says. She notes the importance of their education so that they, too, can become facilitators and models of lifelong learning. Julia feels that every CNC guest leaves with a heightened awareness of the impact of human behavior on our environment. For this reason, she cherishes dressing up as Mother Earth each year at CNC’s Halloween Hikes, where she bids farewell to each guest and encourages them to appreciate the earth and protect and preserve its resources.

CNC’s staff and volunteers work as a unit to facilitate building lifelong connections through its intrinsic welcoming nature. We recognize that everyone has value, and no one is turned away. “We don’t blame; we analyze, reflect, and get things done,” Julia says, which she attributes to good leadership and support, open communication, and civil discourse. She says that at CNC, we do not give up. We trust each other, work collectively and cooperatively, and do our best for each other and the animals. As everything in nature constantly changes and adapts, we must also always be learning. 

Check out the volunteer page for more information on available volunteer opportunities and how to apply.