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Continued: Teaching conservation and outdoor participation

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

Minority kids wanting to enjoy the outdoors face these obstacles and more.

A study completed in January by the Met Council, for example, found that many Twin Cities minorities aren’t aware of the 55,000 acres of regional parklands in the metro, or where they’re located.

Still others among Twin Cities communities of color worry about their safety, should they visit a park.

Similarly, some urban kids assume Twin Cities lakes are owned by lakeshore residents and off-limits to them, Michelle Kelly said.

“They just don’t believe the lakes are there for their use,’’ Kelly said. “Until they are shown otherwise, and they learn to use and enjoy these waters, it will be hard to convince them the lakes are their responsibility to care for.’’

Localizing the lesson

As a National Park Service ranger, Blitzer is assigned to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, which encompasses some 70 miles of the Mississippi as it flows through the Twin Cities.

School programs sponsored by the service, along with partners such as the Twin Cities based nonprofit Wilderness Inquiry, have “connected’’ about 50,000 urban kids to the Mississippi, through paddle trips and other activities.

Now, Blitzer believes, outdoor clubs for fourth- and fifth-graders like the one organized at Battle Creek can broaden kids’ ties to the natural world and to activities such as fishing.

“All they need is the opportunity and someone to show them how,’’ Blitzer said.

Added Kelly: “We all learn differently. ‘Experiential’ learning in the outdoors engages kids physically and connects them to the place where they live.’’

To add as many as six after-school outdoor clubs next year, Kelly and Blitzer hope to recruit college-age interns to help lead field trips. Support from experienced outdoors enthusiasts such as Mark Tippler, a pro angler and DNR certified Hunting and Fishing Youth Mentor who taught knot tying and hook baiting to the Battle Creek kids, also will be needed.

“Teaching a child in a classroom about the importance of saving a rain forest on a distant continent can be important,’’ Kelly said. “But when they learn firsthand about lakes and other resources in their neighborhoods, they pay more attention, because the lesson is relevant to their lives.’’


Dennis Anderson • 612-673-4424



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