by Roland Sigurdson
MinnAqua has a wonderful partnership with all of the Area Fisheries Offices across the state. Each area office has a staffer that is the designated MinnAqua Liaison. This individual is allocated a small portion of their work time it help support aquatic and fishing education. These individuals receive training to assist them in meeting the needs of educators interested in introducing youth to fishing.
For example, in the 7-county metro region a great partnership has developed between the MinnAqua Liaisons in the West Metro Office and the Minnesota River Valley Special Education Cooperative (MRVSEC). The MRVSEC is a special school district that works with 6 member districts in Scott and Carver counties.
Jamie Noyes, Developmental/Adapted Physical Education (DAPE) Teacher at MRVSEC, contacted Leah Weyandt and Mark Nemeth at the West Metro Fisheries office to find out about offering an ice fishing opportunity for the special education students that attend Jamie’s program. Leah and Mark are staff members of the Fishing in the Neighborhood program (also DNR Fisheries) that works to increase angling opportunities in the metro area. In addition, Leah and Mark fulfill the MinnAqua Liaison role in the western metro counties.
Leah and Mark worked with Jamie to formulate an ice fishing outing for the students near New Prague, MN. From these early programs, Jamie found that fishing was an activity that engaged, challenged and thrilled her students.
Around the same time, Leah and Mark also informed Jamie about the new MinnAqua Fishing: Get in the Habitat! Leader's Guide that was tailored to classroom teachers needs. Many of the students that are typically enrolled in Jamie’s special education courses are challenged by emotional/behavior disorders and wouldn’t typically get these experiences with outdoor activities at home. By coupling the Fishing: Get in the Habitat! lesson plans with her specialty in adaptive physical education, Jamie was able to develop additional experiences for her students. She has found that fishing is one activity where special needs students are able to really shine and also develop lifelong activities that they can carry into adulthood. In Minnesota, easy access to fishable waters is available to almost everyone and the minimal cost is not a burden to individuals that take up this hobby.
One challenge for Jamie early on was getting the equipment to take her students fishing. In the short term, she was able to borrow equipment from the MinnAqua Liaisons when she didn’t have the funds necessary to purchase her own for the school district. Of course all of that changed when Jamie’s school became one of the recipients of the MinnAqua 2009 Pay it Forward program. While the PIF program got fishing poles at the school, she continues to work with the Fishing in the Neighborhood program on special opportunities like ice fishing programs that require some specialized equipment.
Another opportunity that presented itself by working with the MinnAqua liaison was the a chance for Jamie to time her fishing experience with an annual stocking that was taking place at the Jordan Mill Pond. The students were able to assist the Fishing in the Neighborhood staff place fish into this designated kids fishing pond in their neighborhood. The students learned how good water quality and health habitat made this a great place for fish to survive and kids to thrive!
In short, it makes good sense for educators to get in contact with their local MinnAqua Liaison. If you’re not sure where the office is located or who the contact is, feel free to touch base with your MinnAqua Education Specialist and they’ll be sure to hook you up. As a community we build stronger programs by increasing the number of program partners working with us.