We are providing this document in order to help answer some of the more frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the current program policies affecting OCVN participants around the state. If your question isn’t answered here or if you would like more information about any of these topics, please feel free to call or email the state OCVN program leaders. Their contact information is provided below.
Q: What does it mean to be an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist?
An Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist is someone who has completed the requirements for initial certification (40 hours of education from an approved OCVN educational program provider followed by 40 hours of approved volunteer service). After the initial certification, to remain certified, an OCVN must complete 20 hours of approved volunteer service and complete 8 hours of continuing education hours within 12 months. Volunteer service hours must be documented on the OCVN volunteer database.
Q: What happens if I don’t complete all the requirements for certification or recertification?
If for any reason, you are unable to complete the requirements to become certified or recertified, you would of course retain all of the knowledge, materials, and learning experiences you gained during your involvement in the program. However, you would not be able to identify yourself as a “certified” volunteer naturalist.
Q: Where can I complete my volunteer service hours and what qualifies as “approved” service hours?
Volunteer service hours should be conducted under the auspices of an agency or organization whose mission is compatible with the mission of the OCVN program. That can include park districts, state parks, universities and other educational institutions, arboretums and nature centers. Your service activities should be known and approved by an official representative of the organization. If you are providing volunteer service independent of any organization, agency, or similar entity, your hours will not count as approved service hours. For example, if you lead a nature hike in a park without the knowledge and approval of park personnel, your time would not count toward your OCVN service hour requirements. Any services or activities conducted as part of your job or for which you are compensated do not count as approved service hours.
Just as important as where you volunteer is what activities you are engaged in. Volunteer service hours should fit under one of the following four types of volunteer service: Education/interpretation and outreach, citizen science, land stewardship, and program support. You’ll find a description of these service types on the OCVN homepage (ocvn.osu.edu). If you have questions about what types of activities count as approved service hours, contact the OCVN State Program Coordinator.
Q: When I am engaged in a volunteer service opportunity for a park or other entity, should I think of myself as an OCVN or as a park volunteer?
It is certainly appropriate to wear your OCVN nametag and to identify as an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist when you are engaged in an approved volunteer service activity. However, you are first and foremost a volunteer of the entity for which you are providing the service and, as such, you should comply with the guidelines and standards of behavior set forth by that entity. You should also cooperate with and be courteous to the staff and volunteer leaders wherever you volunteer.
Q: Are all Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists considered OSU Extension volunteers?
No, being an OCVN does not automatically make you an OSU Extension volunteer. The process to become an OSU Extension volunteer is separate and distinct from the process to become an OCVN. Some OCVNs will volunteer with their local OSU Extension office, but most OCVNs will fulfill their volunteer service hour requirements with other organizations, such as local and state parks, nature centers, arboretums, and similar entities.
Q: What if I would like to become an OSU Extension volunteer?
If you are an OCVN interested in becoming an OSU Extension volunteer, speak to an Extension Educator in you local county OSU Extension office. Not all county OSU Extension offices have volunteer positions available for OCVNs. The application process involves, among other requirements, a criminal background check. The process for becoming an OSU Extension volunteer is the same for all persons, regardless of which OSU Extension program they may have completed, including the OCVN program.
Q: What is involved in becoming an OSU Extension volunteer?
First, to become an OSU Extension volunteer, you will need to complete all the associated requirements, including but not limited to submitting an application, completing a criminal background check, and signing a Standards of Behavior agreement. All OSU Extension volunteers are given a position description outlining expectations, time required, specific responsibilities, and the name of the volunteer’s mentor or supervising professional. Once you become an OSU Extension volunteer, you must comply with the standards of behavior and periodically update your criminal background check. OSU Extension volunteers are also eligible to be covered by OSU’s Volunteer Insurance Services (VIS), which provides protection for a personal injury or property damage liability claim arising out of the performance of the volunteer’s duties. Being an OCVN does not automatically give you coverage under OSU’s VIS. You must be a screened and approved OSU Extension volunteer and you must be performing volunteer duties as described in your position description to be covered by VIS.
Q: If I’m an OCVN participant who is not an OSU Extension volunteer, what are the implications?
Many OCVNs will not become OSU Extension volunteers. They will provide volunteer services for other entities and will therefore function under those entities’ volunteer management policies. Regardless of whether or not you are an OSU Extension volunteer, you will enjoy nearly all the same benefits of being part of the program, including access to the network of OCVN volunteers around the state, access to the OCVN website and volunteer database to track your service hours and receive your certification, and the opportunity to participate in high quality educational programs, including the annual OCVN state conference. As noted above, however, only OSU Extension volunteers are covered by OSU’s liability insurance (VIS).
Q: If I’m not an OSU Extension volunteer, how can I be sure that I’m legally protected if something happens during a service activity?
Although you will not be covered by OSU’s volunteer liability insurance, most state and local entities offer some form of insurance coverage to their volunteers. If you have any doubts, ask your supervisor or the volunteer coordinator for the organization where you are volunteering.
Q: If I’m not an OSU Extension volunteer, should I continue to report my service hours through the online OCVN volunteer database?
We encourage all Certified Volunteer Naturalists to report their service hours through the online database. This is the only way we can track your hours for certification and recertification. Having a record of the volunteer service provided by OCVNs around the state also gives your local sponsoring organizations and OSU Extension meaningful data we can share with our administrators, elected officials, and potential funders to demonstrate the value of your service to communities around the state.
For more information, contact:
Anne Baird, State OCVN Program Coordinator
Joe Bonnell, State OCVN Team Leader