Volunteers are an integral part of the beauty, preservation, education and great programs happening at the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens.

Adult volunteer opportunities

Our volunteers will find a welcoming, supportive, and appreciative environment here. Would you like to work in the peace of the Preserve, or do you prefer to work with a group of curious children? Would you like to help out for a day, or prefer to contribute year-round? Do you want to get exercise, or do you want to get creative? Whatever your interests are, we do our best to find ways for you to share your talents on your schedule.

There are many ways you can be a part of the exciting things happening at the Preserve:

  • Maintain/create trails
  • Plant native species around the Preserve
  • Collect seeds for propogation in our greenhouses
  • Assist with invasive species control
  • Lead educational programs for children/adults
  • Develop/write educational materials
  • Create displays
  • Assist with special events such as the Native Plant Sale or Family Weekend Open House
  • Office/clerical support
  • Research funding sources/write grants
  • Share expertise (financial, legal, etc.)

Current volunteer needs

Volunteering is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, learn more about native plants and meet like-minded friends. We have three opportunities to learn and serve this summer. Come once or come weekly; either way, we hope you will join us! Please note that you do not need to complete a volunteer application to participate in summer work days.

NEW on Tuesdays: Native Garden Work Days

Do good in the new Native Gardens! We have 30,000 young natives to care for as they establish their root systems in their new home. Volunteers will weed, collect seed, water natives in the Glasshouse, plant more natives, and see our garden grow.

WHEN: Tuesdays at 9 am-12 pm (June 4-25 │ July 9-30)
WHERE: Gardeners Cottage in Venema Plaza & Gardens (opposite the Bunker Interpretive Center)
WHAT TO BRING: Please dress in layers for the weather. Sunscreen, hat, long pants/sleeves, and closed-toe shoes are strongly recommended. Bring a water bottle and work gloves if you use them.
WORKDAY LEADER: Skyler Fish (sf26@calvin.edu)

Tuesdays: Stewardship Work Days

Volunteers will control invasive species such as common and glossy buckthorn, spotted knapweed, and purple loosestrife, increase site biodiversity by introducing native plants, and maintain hiking trails.

WHEN: Tuesdays at 9 am-12 pm (June 11-25 │ July 9-30)
WHERE: Gardeners Cottage in Venema Plaza & Gardens (opposite the Bunker Interpretive Center)
WHAT TO BRING: Please dress in layers for the weather. Sunscreen, hat, long pants/sleeves, and closed-toe shoes are strongly recommended. Bring a water bottle and work gloves if you use them.
WORKDAY LEADER: Jen Howell

Wednesdays: Greenhouse Work Days

Volunteers will mix soil, transplant native plant seedlings and plugs into pots, and weed, in preparation for our native plant sale and restoration projects.

WHEN: Wednesdays at 9 am-12 pm (June 5-26 │ July 10-31)
WHERE: Lake Drive Greenhouse, at 3770 Lake Drive SE, GR 49546. The house is on the south side of the road; the address is on a white mailbox. You can see the greenhouse at the end of the driveway.
WHAT TO BRING: Dress in layers as the greenhouse can be warm. Some days we will also be working outside, so dress for the weather. Bring a water bottle and work gloves if you use them.
WORKDAY LEADER: Jeanette Henderson

Ongoing volunteer needs

Land stewards

Volunteer are need to assist our Land Manager in restoration and monitoring projects.In return, volunteers will gain valuable work experience related to conservation and ecological restoration. Volunteers can look forward to hands-on experiences with practical aspects of natural resource management including native plant identification, ecological monitoring and practical strategies for controlling invasive plants common to the Midwest.

Educational program leaders

If you enjoy working with children and sharing your love of the outdoors, becoming a program leader may be for you. Leaders guide elementary school groups through the Preserve, presenting a variety of specifically designed environmental education programs. Leaders need to be knowledgeable about Michigan flora and fauna and/or be willing to learn, and must be able to communicate their knowledge in a professional and educational way. Prior experience teaching and/or working with children is preferred. Programs take place during the school year 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Time commitments vary. Training is provided.

Artists, crafters, and carpenters

We are often in need of talented people for various creative projects at the Preserve. For example, we would love to make more puppets and backdrops for our puppet theater, as well as props for teaching. Let us know how you would like to share your creative flair!

To be an adult volunteer

To help with any of the activities listed above, please complete an adult volunteer application. (Note to Mac users: you must complete this application using Adobe Reader, not Preview.)

To discuss other ways in which your talent may contribute to the mission of the Preserve, please contact Julie Wilbourn.

Group volunteer opportunities

Community and corporate groups are welcome to coordinate a private workday with us during the week or weekend. Volunteer activities may include seed collection, invasive species removal, transplanting native plants, trail work, native garden maintenance, and other special projects. We prefer a minimum of at least 8 volunteers to schedule a private workday. Preferred times are 9 am to noon and/ or 1 to 4 pm. Contact Jen Howell, our Land Manager, for more information and to arrange a workday.

Youth volunteer opportunities

If you are 12-17 years old, like to have fun and learn about nature at the same time, and are looking for a rewarding experience this summer, join our team of Volunteer Camp Assistants! Camp Assistants enjoy working with younger children (ages 4-8), like to be creative, and want to enrich their leadership skills. These teens choose one or two weeks from Wetlands & Woodlands camp sessions 1 through 5 during June and July in which to volunteer. Parents: rest assured, youth volunteers will be supervised by preserve staff.

For more information

Read our Camp Assistant flyer.

To be a Camp Assistant

Please complete an application.

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