When a 6-year is OBSESSED with critters and eager to learn about spiders & tarantulas it only makes sense to volunteer at the nature center. Read about our youth volunteer Jasper (6.5) and his mom Karen.
PEEC: Where are you from and how did you end up in Los Alamos?
K.H.: I’m originally from Bakersfield, California. In 2010, my husband Matt and I quit our jobs to sail from CA to Australia. When we were ready to return to the US, my husband (who had worked at LANL as a student) had a job opportunity here. Jasper was born in Los Alamos in 2013.
PEEC: Tell us about yourself.
K.H.: I am an attorney/aspiring writer, but spend most of my time homeschooling our 3 boys. I enjoy good conversations around a campfire, reading great books, and talking about personality types. My husband and I share outdoor stories/advice at www.southwestfamilyadventures.com and I write about faith and personal growth at www.inspiredtofaith.com.
Jasper is 6.5 years old and loves YouTube — especially shows with Coyote Peterson of Brave Wilderness, Survival Builders, and videos about spiders. He participates in LAYSL soccer and is about to earn his red wristband in Ninja Kidz at High Flyers. He is really good at making awesome lego creations, catching spiders, and leading his brothers on all kinds of adventures.
Matt and I met on Match.com in 2006 and married in 2009. We honeymooned by sailing Matt’s boat across the Pacific Ocean to Australia before becoming land-locked here in Los Alamos. We now have 3 boys — Bodie (8), Jasper (6.5) and Emerson (4). We love camping and going on road trips, and are currently homeschooling the kids partly to allow for more freedom with our schedules. Matt coached YMCA & LAYSL soccer this year and recently joined the local Search & Rescue team. We want to raise our kids to love and delight in nature and have confidence in their outdoor skills. It’s also really important to us that they see the value in loving and serving each other and their community.
PEEC: How did you get involved with PEEC?
K.H.: Because of our family blog, I was asked to write an article for PEEC’s newsletter. Then when Jasper started asking for a pet tarantula (eek!!), I suggested he do critter care for the spiders at PEEC instead!
PEEC: What are your jobs with PEEC?
K.H. I write for the PEEC newsletter and supervise Jasper who feeds the tarantulas and black widow at PEEC. I enjoy the challenge of writing articles for the newsletter and I hope that I can encourage PEEC’s members to get outside in nature and explore the Southwest. Jasper really loves having the responsibility of checking on Natasha (black widow), Octavia (tarantula), and Rosa (milk snake).
I also serve on the Board of Directors for the First Born Program of Los Alamos. In the past, I have helped with the Little Forest Resale, served in churches, and have provided occasional pro bono legal services for members of our community.
PEEC: Why do you think it’s important to volunteer?
K.H.: For one, it has helped us become more invested in the community and feel settled-in here. Also, I want our kids to know that what they do matters for others. We can make an impact, even by giving just a little bit of our time and energy. This community has given so much to us over the years that it’s nice to be more involved now that our kids are older.
PEEC: What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
K.H.: We enjoy feeling connected with the community and knowing that we are helping established institutions/organizations continue in their mission.
PEEC: Do you have any advice for people interested in volunteering?
K.H.: Just ask! I wasn’t sure if there would be an opportunity for Jasper since he was only 6, but the PEEC staff has been so kind and gracious and found a place for him to serve even though he is little.
PEEC:In your opinion, what’s the most important work PEEC does?
K.H.: PEEC provides a hands-on, easily accessible way for the community to understand and get to know our local area. I, personally, have learned so much about our local geography and flora/fauna from PEEC’s resources, and so have my kids. Even though we have immediate access to the mountains, PEEC does such a good job of helping us all engage more deeply with the natural world around us.
PEEC: What outdoor hobbies do you enjoy?
K.H.: Our family loves exploring the national forest and all the local backroads. We have driven thousands of miles around the Southwest, going canyoneering and hiking, and finding the best places to camp. Next year we hope to take the boys on a float trip down the Green River in Utah. And, we cannot wait to get back on a sailboat again someday!
PEEC: Best outdoor experience in the Los Alamos area?
K.H.: This summer, I took the boys up to the Reservoir with some friends and they had a great time messing around on the rope swing and catching water bugs. Another favorite is hiking into one of the canyons and reading a great book to them while they play on the rocks. I read “Sign of the Beaver” to them last year and being out in the woods really made the book come alive.
PEEC: What do you love about the Pajarito Plateau?
K.H.: We love the incredible vistas and the instant access to so many great hikes. Jasper likes the Valle and knowing that we “live by a volcano.”
PEEC: What is on your wish list for PEEC for the next 10 years?
K.H.: I would love to see classes for kids where they can build some really legit outdoor skills. Kind of like a NOLS type curriculum.
PEEC: Best and/or funny memory working with PEEC?
K.H.: Don’t tell anyone, but a few crickets have escaped on our watch!
PEEC: If you could be a local animal which would you pick?
K.H.: I would be an owl — I’d love to see what goes on around here at night! Jasper would be a salamander or an ant because “they don’t have much to fear.”
Article by Christa Tyson, PEEC Visitor Services Manager