Today: Amy Kay Kerber, who works for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a legislative liaison for the forestry division. Kerber helps legislators understand the impact of bills on the management of public and private lands. Kerber also is the division’s outreach supervisor.
I am between books and don’t have a lot spare time now. So I am reading way too many New Yorker articles!
The “No Child Left Inside” movement — getting kids to explore outside is one of my passions. In 2008, when national efforts to organize legislation were underway, I was excited to volunteer to garner support in Minnesota. Eventually, in December 2015, environmental education components were integrated into the federal education law (Every Student Succeeds Act). The law promotes environmental literacy and hands-on learning outdoors, and provides some limited financial assistance.
Over the years, different states have gotten on board by expanding outdoor education and play experiences, or promoting environmental grant programs for schools. Recently there has been interest at the Legislature and in many communities to expand opportunities in Minnesota. While our state has a long and proud history of environmental education, there is certainly room for improvement and expansion.
Working with the teachers, students, and communities in the Minnesota School Forest Program, the state’s outdoor classroom program, has been the highlight of my career. My favorite moment: hearing a second-grader exclaim, “That was the best math lesson I have ever had! Everything made sense! Can we do it again tomorrow?” This was especially rewarding given that the student was not very interested in math in the classroom and had some behavioral challenges. But when she was outside, she was focused and engaged, and enjoyed every minute of learning how to measure circumference and use a formula to find a tree’s diameter. The hands-on application of math in the woods made it come to life for her. This happens hundreds of times a week as teachers from the School Forest Program take their students outside to learn core subjects — science, math, language arts and social studies — in nature.
Girls hockey — ha! With two daughters who skate, this consumes most of my free time. My favorite moments are when we skate on a lake or outside at the Roseville Oval. Now that the hockey season is winding down, I am looking forward to watching spring bird migration. I am just an amateur, but every spring I am always excited at my first great blue heron and egret sighting.
Cross-country skiing whenever life allows, which typically means 5 kilometers here and there. I try to fit in skiing wherever life takes me — and in Minnesota it is easy to find a decent ski trail. The Dean Mackey School Forest 5K in Brainerd and Maplelag in Callaway, Minn., are spots near and dear to me, but I spend most of my ski time on the Ramsey County trails. In spring, I will be biking — I’m just not hard-core enough for winter riding. Reducing my environmental footprint and being outside are both important to me. So I like to bike to work or to run errands as often as I can.