Teaching conservation and outdoor participation

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 13, 2014 - 12:23 PM

A new after-school program brings kids outdoors in an effort to protect our shared woods, waters and fields.

hide

Pickerel Lake provided fun and fish to members of the Outdoor Club of Battle Creek Elementary School in St. Paul. The club is a joint project of the DNR, the National Park Service and the school.

For generations, Minnesotans whose lineage dates to pioneer days — families with names like Peterson, Johnson and Miller — have taught their kids and grandkids the joys of fishing atop the state’s fabled 10,000 lakes and more than 92,000 miles of rivers.

As a result, Minnesota has long been a leader in the percentage of its residents who “wet a line’’ or otherwise spend time outdoors, and near the top among states in sales of fishing and hunting licenses and money raised for conservation.

But Minnesota is changing, and its position as a national icon of land and water stewardship is at risk, experts say, along with the health of its natural resources, unless its newer residents — families with names like Vang, Mohamed and Marquez — are similarly imbued with a passion for outdoor pastimes that tie them to the state’s lands and waters.

“If you don’t have a connection to our resources, you’re not going to care about them,’’ said Michelle Kelly, a biologist and teacher with MinnAqua, a Department of Natural Resources outreach program that exposes kids to the state’s natural resources and how to enjoy them.

Now, after successful formation of an after-school Outdoor Club for fourth- and fifth-graders from three St. Paul elementary schools in the past year, the DNR, the National Park Service and others hope to replicate the concept at other Twin Cities schools this fall.

The intent is to expose the metro’s increasingly diverse student populations to fishing and other, similar outdoor pastimes, enriching their lives while cultivating future generations of conservationists.

The outdoor club concept was launched at Battle Creek Elementary School in St. Paul, where about 13 percent of students are white, 3 percent are Indian, 11 percent Hispanic, 35 percent African-American or African, and 38 percent Asian-American.

Last winter, the club’s members hiked, fished through the ice and skied. This spring they learned to tie fishing knots and bait hooks before casting bobber rigs into Pickerel Lake in St. Paul, where they caught stringers of sunfish.

“From what I’ve seen, fourth and fifth grades represent the sweet spot for introducing students to the outdoors,’’ said Mary Blitzer, a National Park Service ranger. “It comes natural to them at that age, whether it’s fishing, skiing or getting sweaty on a hike.’’

Changing demographics

A National Park Service Foundation grant helped fund the initial outdoor club, with support from the St. Paul School District’s After School Program, whose more typical offerings include math, English and other classwork.

“Kids beg to get into the Outdoor Club,’’ said Julie Richards, an After School Program coordinator with St. Paul public schools. “But there’s a limit to the number who can participate, and they have to earn the opportunity.’’

Programs that boost angler and other outdoor participation among all Minnesotans, but perhaps especially among communities of color, can’t happen soon enough, said Tim Kelly, a DNR researcher.

“Almost all of Minnesota’s growth now is in its minority populations,’’ Kelly said.

Between 2000 and 2010, Kelly said, the percentage of the state’s white population under the age of 17 dropped by 11 percent, while nonwhite numbers in that age category grew by nearly 50 percent.

Compounding the challenge, about 31 percent of white Minnesotans fish. But only 11 percent of state minorities do, according to a DNR survey.

And while overall Minnesota angler numbers have remained stable in recent years, fishing participation as a percentage of the population is declining. Thirty-one percent of residents fished in 2000. That share fell to 28 percent in 2012.

Reasons often cited for the falloff include urbanization, lack of time and an increase in single-parent families. Team sports also increasingly vie for kids’ attention, as do computers, cellphones and the Internet.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 4
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 5 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 1
San Francisco - WP: T. Hudson 10 FINAL
Washington - LP: D. Fister 3
St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 5
Chicago WSox - LP: D. Webb 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 4
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 8 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Stroman 0
Atlanta - WP: D. Hale 3 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: M. Parra 1
Seattle - WP: D. Leone 5 FINAL
Boston - LP: K. Uehara 3
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6 FINAL
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 8 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 3
Detroit - LP: R. Ray 6 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: R. Pressly 20
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 13 FINAL
Colorado - LP: F. Morales 5
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 1 FINAL
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 5
LA Angels - LP: J. Grilli 3 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Gray 5
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 2 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: D. Haren 6
Carolina 7 FINAL
New England 30
NY Giants 35 FINAL
NY Jets 24
Jacksonville 12 FINAL
Detroit 13
Oakland 21 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Chicago 6 FINAL
Seattle 34
Tampa Bay 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
FC Dallas 2
Montreal 16 FINAL
Winnipeg 24
Toronto 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Chicago 80 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Los Angeles 72 FINAL
Phoenix 75

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How closely will you follow the Lynx in the WNBA playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close