Wainer teaches environmental education, taking elementary school students on field trips to the national parks and surrounding areas of the Bureau of Land Management. Through the program, every student in kindergarten through sixth grade does hands-on science activities tied to the science core curriculum standards, many of them designed by Wainer as part of her graduate studies in the early 2000s, she said.
The Outdoor Education Program organizes field trips to 14 different locations in addition to in-class visits. Students learn about rock formation and erosion at Balanced Rock and water cycles at Matheson Wetlands Preserve. They look for signs of beaver in Mill Creek and make rope in the ancient Puebloan style at Wolfe Ranch. Wainer tries to be present at as many field trips as her managerial duties permit, she said.
“My training is in environmental education and I joined the park service right out of college,” Wainer said.
She worked in fees and interpretation before getting the opportunity to work in environmental education in 1998 and took over management of the Outdoor Education Program in 2003.
“I just love that look on kids’ faces when they get it. It’s like this sparkling. They’re like, wow, it clicks and their whole face lights up,” Wainer said.
Wainer also enjoys being able to help teachers approach concepts from a different angle.
“I think it’s really awesome that we can help the teachers teach some of these concepts and that we can get the kids into the parks,” Wainer said. “I really like that we can teach things in just a little bit different way so maybe some of those kids … that might not get it in the classroom might be able to get it doing a hands-on activity outside. We try to supplement what the teachers are doing and work with them.”
The best part of the job?
“We have the most wonderful kids here in our community,” she said. “I love it when I have somebody who has grown up in Moab and they’re like, ‘Ranger Heidi, do you remember when you took me to such-and-such a place?’ To me that’s so rewarding because our whole goal is to create a positive memory with the kids, a positive memory of being in the park, a positive memory of being with a park ranger. And when I have a high school student come up to me and say, ‘Oh, Ranger Heidi, do you remember when ... ?’ it tells me that we did that.”
Anna Arsic, an education technician for Canyon Country Outdoor Education at Arches National Park, said that working for Wainer is an inspiring, positive experience.
“I like working for Heidi because she truly cares about the students and families of this community,” Arsic said. “She also inspires an ethic of lifelong learning and professional improvement among her staff. It is clear that everything we do is in direct service to the students we work with.”
Wainer is grateful to the school district and the park service for their support of Canyon Country Outdoor Education.
“We couldn’t do the amazing things we do without the support of our wonderful elementary school and I have an amazing team that works here and it’s not just me that makes the program great, it’s everybody who works here and everybody who has worked here,” Wainer said.
Wainer works part-time for the National Park Service, which allows her time to be with her family and volunteer for the schools.
“I have a very supportive husband who works for Canyonlands Natural History Association,” she said. “My son Tobin just graduated last year. My son Kai is a junior this year. They’re awesome … I’m blessed with this perfect balance of this career I love yet being able to be at home when my kids are home from school.”
Wainer helps out in the schools whenever she can. She has been on the executive committee for the Moab Athletic Club, was involved with travel sports and has taken part in the community councils for the schools as her kids grew up. She also does volunteer seamstress work for the high school drama department.