by Nadine Meyer, Aquatic Education Specialist
Battle Lake School Ice Fishing Event with Ice Team, LLC
Teachers from Battle Lake School, in Ottertail County, west of Fergus Falls, MN worked to create a memorable and educational ice fishing event for their students. The following is an interview with Eric Olson, one of the teachers who was instrumental in organizing this event and integrating it into the school’s curriculum.
NM: How did you decide to take on an ice fishing program in your school?
EO: My colleague, Bret and I are avid fishermen. Being around kids all the time, we found that a lot of students in our district don’t have someone at home that takes them fishing or outside to enjoy the outdoors. Also, with our location it would be a shame for these students not to have an opportunity to enjoy the resources we have surrounding us.
A member of the Ice Team, LLC, a marketing organization representing the ice fishing industry, contacted me last summer and asked if our school would be interested in taking on the MinnAqua and Ice Team, LLC project, without hesitation we jumped at it. After a short conversation with school administration we started making contacts and aligning the right people to make this a success.
NM: Describe the overall program - what did you do prior to going on the ice with your students, what did you do to prepare for the ice fishing event, what happened on the ice with your students, what kind of follow up are you planning?
EO: The first step taken was to organize a training session with Nadine Meyer for the Fishing: Get in the Habitat! educator training. Nadine held a training session at Glendalough State Park with teachers Bret, Kris Lee, Dave Himmespach, myself, and several Ice Team, LLC members. After we went through training we knew this was something the kids would enjoy and we would enjoy the challenge of teaching.
We started our MinnAqua Fishing: Get in the Habitat! lessons with our students the beginning of November and continued until Christmas break, knowing that when the students returned from break we would be having our Ice Fishing Event.
Our Ice Fishing Event was held Jan. 9th with Battle Lake’s 5th and 6th grade classes and Mr. Schwantz’s 5th grade that we invited from Pelican Rapids. The 105 students met in the auditorium in Battle Lake School for an organizational meeting and a few words from local conservation officer Tricia Plautz. From there each student was presented with an ice fishing rod and reel combo from the Ice Team, LLC. The students spent time rigging their combo for the Ice Fishing Event. Before we left for the lake, the students and volunteers ate lunch and we were ready to go.
When the student arrived at the lake the students were greeted by several local anglers and Ice Team, LLC members to assist them for the day. The local volunteers and members of Ice Team, LLC pre-drilled holes in the area that was plowed by local volunteers the day before. Ice Team, LLC provided warming shacks for the students and volunteers to warm themselves now and then. The students spent a few hours on the lake fishing, learning how to set lines according to depth, how to use sonar fish finders, looking at the bottom structures through underwater cameras, and taking in the knowledge from the anglers helping out.
When meeting with the local volunteers and the Ice Team, LLC members afterward we talked about what’s next. How else can we continue to educate these students? All the adults were so impressed with how the students absorbed the information and were still hungry for more. They didn’t want the day to be done, they kept asking “when is the next time we get to go fishing?” So, as a next program we are looking at is utilizing more lessons from Fishing: Get in the Habitat! and do a shore fishing event in May.
NM: What community connections did you make in order to make this event a success?
EO: Battle Lake is a community made up by organizations and businesses that are involved with the fishing and tourism industry. The community totally embraced the idea of teaching Environmental Education and introducing fishing to our classrooms. Students viewing fish and aquatic Ben’s Bait, a local bait shop, habitat through underwater cameras provided bait and plowed
out our fishing area. Also we received money contributions from Lakes Country Sportsman’s Club, Ottertail Rod and Gun Club, Battle Lake Lions, and R. D. Offit. Besides these businesses several local volunteers donated hours of their time to make this event a success. Including a Community Women of Today group the served hot cocoa and treats to the students and volunteers while they were on the ice.
NM: What words of inspiration do you have for other teachers who may be considering trying this out at their schools?
EO: We were concerned at first that we would lose some students interest, and they would not enjoy the lessons and fishing event. We were happy to see that we were wrong. All the students involved themselves into the hands on lessons and gained excitement in our MinnAqua program. Every student walked on the ice with a smile and left knowing they have a life-long activity they can enjoy in the lakes area of Minnesota.