Today we introduce you to Davnet Conway Schaffer, who has been director of our Nature Preschool since its founding in 2006, and the Nature Center’s associate director since 2015. Davnet has been instrumental in creating the Preschool’s welcoming atmosphere, and is an ardent believer in the importance of both free play and of being outdoors in early childhood development. She works closely with our Education Director on Early Childhood Education programs outside the preschool realm as well.
As associate director, Davnet has been a key player in the renovations of Coogan Farm, and works with staff at the Nature Center daily to make sure the operation runs smoothly. In her spare time, she loves trail running, and she is mom to two wonderful children, Una and Roan, and family dogs Sassafras and Olive.
Name: Davnet Conway Schaffer
Town of residence: Stonington
Where were you born and raised? I was born in New York and raised in Larchmont. We had lots of freedom to play outside all day. The rule was to be home by the 6pm firehouse whistle. We were also lucky enough to travel to Ireland in the summers to spend time with family. The west coast of Ireland was and still is a wonderfully wild place. We had amazing adventures exploring the beach, fields and hills. One thing we learned to watch out for were stinging nettles. We didn’t have them in Larchmont and they were always an unpleasant surprise. But they also made Ireland feel just a bit more wild than home.
Education/degree(s): B.S. Environmental Science from SUNY Purchase
M.S. Oceanography from UCONN
Early Childhood Credential from American Montessori Society
How long have you worked at DPNC: Almost 14 years!
What is your current position? Associate Director and Early Childhood Education Director
What’s the best part about your job? Being with children and being outside. It’s really hard to have a bad day when you get to share nature with children! They are so enthusiastic about what they are seeing and learning. Something that seems mundane to adults like finding a slug or animal track is often an incredible experience for a child. Exploring with children helps you see things with fresh eyes and appreciate everything we can find in nature.
What’s the best part about the DPNC? DPNC is a beautiful place. We are very lucky to have access to such diversity of habitats in our small town. In addition, the staff, members and volunteers help to create a strong community based on a shared love of the land and nature.
What do people ask you most often when they find out you work at a Nature Center? People always react positively knowing that I work at a nature center. Usually instead of asking something they make a statement like “cool”! Then they often tell how much they love a certain type of animal or natural place. If they ask a question it’s often about the animals or to ask if my job allows me to be outside.
What surprises you about your job? The dedication of our staff! Once people make a connection with DPNC they never really leave. DPNC creates a wonderful sense of place that seems to become a critical part of people’s development, whatever stage they are at and it always draws them back. Our staff remains connected to the land and each other over years and miles.
Favorite animal, plant, or … (and why): I can’t pick just one plant or animal! My all-time favorite animal is an elephant but actually I also really love cows. They are beautiful, sweet and I love milk! For plants I really love large trees for their beauty but I get super excited about edible plants! I love hakurei turnips and bärlauch, which is a wild garlic native to Europe. You can find it for a few weeks in the spring and make the most delicious and garlicky pesto.