Texas Master Naturalists Jim and Debbie Nance have spent years searching the country for precious minerals and gems found in the rocky hills of Utah and pebbly riverbanks in Oregon.

On Tuesday, the pair shared some of their knowledge and travel experiences with attendees of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program at the University of Texas Medical Branch Angleton Danbury Campus.

Several interested adults gathered at tables examining the gems and minerals, while Jim and Debbie Nance shared a slideshow presentation of their findings.

The class is a part of the third semester of the OLLI Program in Angleton, an educational program that has been a part of UTMB Galveston for 18 years, Program Manager of Community Resources and OLLI Team Lead Michael Washburn said.

For adults 55 and older, the classes offer interactive learning and fun without the exams and homework, Washburn said.

“The Master Naturalists have been a huge support of OLLI,” Washburn said. “We had a birding class as well as the minerals and gems.”

Attendees of the program can choose courses from either campus and become an OLLI member for just $25, Washburn said.

Auxiliary volunteer Carol Sebesta said each class has an interest to someone.

“I’m here to support these things that are of interest to the community,” Sebesta said.

Sebesta and about a dozen others asked questions about size, clarity and color of certain gems and minerals at the Professional Office Building II Auditorium at UTMB Tuesday afternoon.

Both the Nance’s travel around the community as a part of the Texas Master Naturalists and teach classes.

Jim Nance said it’s a fun way to share his passion and spread some science knowledge with the thousands of people he’s met while doing it.

“A lot of people have never seen minerals,” Jim Nance said. “It’s a lot of fun and people generally like science.”

In addition to gems, the Nance’s said when they teach children at schools it’s fun to show fossilized dinosaur feces with their findings.

“The kids all seem to really get a kick out of that,” Jim Nance said.

The winter semester of OLLI courses runs until March and the spring semester runs from March through May, Washburn said.

Some classes include common plant species and rare oaks, estate planning and philanthropy, understanding climate change, the fierce beauty of raptors, breathing better and creating a culture of volunteerism.

OLLI Memberships are just $25 and members can take any course, he said.

For a full list of courses offered and registration, people can stop by the Frank W. Stevens Center for Health and Wellness, 140 E. Hospital Drive or call 979-848-9120.

Courtney Blackann is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0152.

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