Monday, May 11, 2020

In recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, Greenwich Library Oral History Project student blogger Noor Rekhi offers highlights of an interview with Ted Gilman by project volunteer Laurie Heiss.

Ted Gilman retired at the end of January after forty-three years with the Greenwich Audubon Center, where he served as Senior Naturalist and Education Specialist. His love for flora and fauna was kindled as a young child in Montclair, New Jersey, where he grew up playing outdoors, and developed a love for ornithology. He continued this passion at Earlham College, where he studied natural history, and at Cornell University, where he participated in a graduate program in the Department of Natural Resources.

Ted Gilman leading a nature walk 
at Greenwich Audubon Center
Mr. Gilman first honed his skills as an educator in the 1970s when he worked for a Toledo-based program that sought to give fifth graders in Ohio a chance to experience the great outdoors. His experience with Audubon began in 1974 when he became a bird life instructor at an Audubon camp in Maine. Gilman continued to spend two more summers at the camp before coming to Greenwich in 1977 to work for Greenwich Audubon as an education specialist and naturalist. During that summer, he worked in the Audubon Ecology Workshop for Educators; he was named director of the program the following year. The workshop taught teachers from across America and overseas how to embrace and connect with natural surroundings so that they could bring those same lessons to their students. Mr. Gilman greatly enjoyed many aspects of teaching in that program, noting that it “was the opportunity to help adults have child-like experiences.” Through this workshop he gave an invaluable experience to the teachers involved and their future students; everyone should have the opportunity to embrace nature and hone the ability to connect with it.

Ted Gilman teaching children about 
birds at the Greenwich Audubon Center
While in the summer he worked at the Audubon Ecology Workshop for Educators, during the other seasons he worked in the Volunteer Teacher-Naturalist program, which allows children to explore nature and wildlife in small group settings. Through this program, Gilman reached thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to pursue natural history studies themselves. He fondly expressed his enthusiasm towards helping children get in touch with the outdoors, saying, “It’s that fun of seeing the kids have the opportunity to get out and explore outside the four walls of the school. And whether it is peering at a tiny little nymph of the spittlebug on a stem of a plant in spring, or tadpoles and frogs, or seeing hawks soaring overhead, I think it’s trying to help children have that ‘oh, wow’ experience of the new—the new discovery, the new awareness and exploring and discovering of the natural world, hopefully widening their horizons.”

Through his work, Gilman has taught many children and adults to cherish the environment and realize the need for conservation not only in protected wildlife sanctuaries, but also in our own backyards. Although in this modern world many of us find ourselves more connected to our screens than the environment, Mr. Gilman works to preserve our Earth for all its future children. The next time you gaze upon the foliage and fauna that grace Greenwich or experience an “oh, wow,” moment while watching nature, note Ted Gilman’s contributions in sustaining our communal home. None of us is alone; we are connected to every person, animal, plant, and mineral in the universe. By connecting children and adults with feathered and finned friends alike, Mr. Gilman allows us to return to a child’s awareness of the interdependence of everyone and every living thing.

Mary Jacobson, OHP blog editor

As with all our interview transcripts, the Ted Gilman transcript may be read at Greenwich Library and is available for purchase at the Oral History Project office. The Oral History Project is sponsored by the Friends of the Greenwich Library. Visit the OHP website at

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