by Jeff Eibler, MinnAqua Fisheries Liaison
This past spring, Jeff received a request to assist Indus School near International Falls with some aquatic resource education programming. The teachers at Indus have not had the opportunity to receive training on the MinnAqua Leader’s Guide, Fishing: Get in the Habitat! as of present time.) Jeff used the MinnAqua Leader’s Guide to present aquatic resource activities for the students at Indus.
Thankfully, Jeff Eibler, the MinnAqua Liaison stationed at the Area Fisheries office in International Falls, was able to join a group of teachers in the International Falls area in October of 2007 for the MinnAqua training and was excited to use his skills.
In an email to Nadine Meyer, the Northern MN MinnAqua Education Specialist, Jeff described the activities he did.
“The ‘Wonderful Watersheds’ Unit at Indus went really well! We did the aluminum foil models in the classroom and then went outside. The indoor stuff took about an hour but I had a really awesome group (14 kids) and we spent a lot of time just talking about watersheds, human activities and their impacts to water quality.
“We then had a picnic lunch at Manitou Rapids on the Rainy River and then lifted a trap net that I had set the day before. I was thinking that by catching a few fish I could show them that there are critters in our rivers and lakes that depend on clean water and quality habitat and that clean water is dependent on wise use of our watersheds. We managed to catch about 8 white suckers so the kids were stoked! I was relieved.
Anyway, just wanted to pass along what I consider a success story.”
Jeff’s work with the local school district is definitely a success story.
The Fisheries Biologists in International Falls also get involved with other events including the annual Environmental Education (EE) Days for 5th grade youth in International Falls and the surrounding communities. EE Days provides students with an opportunity to interact with and learn from experts in various outdoor or natural resource related fields. In 2008, seven learning modules were available for students to experience and presenters included MDNR Fisheries (including the MinnAqua Staff), MDNR Wildlife, Boise Cascade, Forest Capital, Koochiching County Soil and Water District, Voyageurs National Park, The Coast Guard and Koochiching County Lands and Forestry.
During the day-long event, students, in groups of about 8-12, spend about 35 minutes at each module and then at set times,marked by the sound of a horn, rotate to the next module. In 2008, 150 5th Graders from International Falls, Littlefork, Big Falls, Indus and St. Thomas School learned about boat and water safety, wildlife, sustainable forest management, orienteering and map use, Minnesota fish and the importance of clean water to them, paper making and the impacts of humans on the landscape. The only break students take during the day is for a picnic lunch! The event spans two full days to allow each 5th Grade Section to take part while keeping group sizes small. The event takes place outside and has never been cancelled due to the weather.
Jeff Eibler, Fisheries Specialist with the DNR said, “The Falls Area EE Days is an extremely successful event for us that we want to take part in. We invest a great deal in terms of staff time capturing fish and presenting to the kids. But the payoff is worth it. In a relatively short amount of time we are able to reach a large number of kids about the importance of taking care of our aquatic habitat and the fish that reside there. Getting this message across to our youth is one of the most important things we do.”
MinnAqua Liaisons are DNR Fisheries Biologists who are trained on the MinnAqua Program and 5% of their time is devoted to delivering educational outreach programming. MinnAqua Liaisons choose how to deliver their 5% based on their strengths and interests. Some provide the type of services Jeff described, some work more with adult groups, some may serve as writers or reviewers, and others work with the MinnAqua Staff on displays and other projects.
Every Area Fisheries Office has a designated MinnAqua Liaison. The Area Fisheries Offices are located throughout the state. For a PDF map of the Area Fisheries Offices with contact phone numbers go to http://www.mndnr.gov/fisheries/index.html click on the link “Map of Fisheries field offices and staff”. The staff listed on the map are the Area Fisheries Supervisors who will be able to direct you to the MinnAqua Liaison in that office.