by Michelle Kelly, Aquatic Education Specialist
The St. Francis School Independent School District #15 is nestled in the woods and fields of northern Anoka County and southern Isanti County, 40 miles north of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Pamela Beecham is a third grade teacher at East Bethel Community School in the St. Francis School District (ISD 15). She has headed the district’s elementary science team and has also contributed her experience and expertise with the MinnAqua Program as one of original pilot testers of Fishing: Get in the Habitat! lessons. Pam wanted to share the MinnAqua curriculum with the other teachers in her district so she scheduled the district’s first Fishing: Get in the Habitat! training workshop in August of 2007, as part of that summer’s elementary science in-service training week.
Abbi Case, St. Francis District’s Cedar Creek Community School 5th grade teacher, attended that 2007 workshop and was inspired by Pam’s enthusiastic endorsement of the lessons and activities in the curriculum guide. Abbi decided to coordinate a second Fishing: Get in the Habitat! workshop for the district’s elementary teachers for the 2008 August in-service training week to provide further support for the teachers who had started using the MinnAqua curriculum guide, and to get Fishing: Get in the Habitat! in the hands of the teachers new to the district or who had been unable to attended the 2007 training workshop. Abbi also led the planning for this year’s Lake George Water Festival, which has become the districts’ culminating event for the fall Fishing: Get in the Habitat! units.
The training workshops prepared the district’s elementary teachers to incorporate Fishing: Get in the Habitat! into their curriculum. Lessons from the MinnAqua curriculum teach third through fifth graders about fish identification and families, the six senses of fish, safety while fishing, and Minnesota fishing regulations, and bring relevancy to the concepts they are learning in class. The teachers are seeing that their students are engaged in their studies as they learn about Minnesota’s water habitats and fish, and look forward to the Lake George Water Festival.
The second annual Lake George Water Festival, was held on October 3, 2008. Ms. Case wrote an article about the event and has posted it on the Courier webpage, the St. Francis School District’s news website last fall.
“It was a beautiful fall day when fifth grade students from Cedar Creek Community School set out for Lake George. At the Water Festival, students participated in four stations (also from the MinnAqua lessons). Here they learned about water pollution, conservation and the life cycle of a northern pike. The kids also made their own fishing poles from pop cans, and tried out some spin casters, too, as they fished from the piers at Lake George," reports Abbi.
“All expenses for the festival were covered by a generous grant received from the Jeffers Foundation, in addition to contributions from school staff and parents,” she continues. “The biggest thank-yous, however, went to the parent and community volunteers who ran every station at the festival. Their participation not only makes this fishing event possible from year to year, but reinforces the importance the families place on their children’s education.”
The parents who volunteered that day saw first-hand how fishing can hook kids on learning.
Studies certainly are important. Sharing memorable outdoor experiences with family is important for kids, too. The smiles on the students’ faces as they reeled in wiggly sunfish on their pop-can casters at the Lake George Water Festival fishing station last October just may have inspired those parent volunteers to take their kids out fishing again!
If you’d like to schedule a MinnAqua Program Fishing: Get in the Habitat! training workshop for the teachers in your school district, or for your youth group colleagues, please contact the MinnAqua Education Specialist in your area.