From the scented markers for name tags to the introductory game involving matching one person’s paper fish head to another’s fish tail, Mark Stephens’ objective was to make every activity to translate into something kid-friendly.
Stephens, an education program coordinator in MSU’s Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resources Studies, led a two-day Fishing for the Future of the Great Lakes workshop May 15-16 at Gardner Middle School, 333 Dahlia Dr., in Lansing.
Stephens, who coordinates the Project Friends Involved in Sportfishing Heritage, or Project FISH, program, said the workshop equips people to teach kids about fishing and aquatic resource stewardship.
“This is a train-the-trainer workshop,” Stephens said. “We’re training people here to work with kids, which is the next step.”
At the workshop, attendees learned the basics of aquatic ecology, made fishing tackles, learned about ethics and cultural differences in fishing and practiced casting.
Teachers and retired volunteers comprised the majority of about 18 attendees who paid $55 for the training, but teachers from six mid-Michigan districts that are part of the Grand River And Nature Discovery, or GRAND, Learning Network attended for no cost, Stephens said.
The GRAND Learning Network is a mid-Michigan initiative designed to teach kids about the communities they live in, he said.
Mandy Springer, a second-grade teacher from Kendon Elementary School in Lansing, said the teachers also received a stipend for going.
“It was great because it was hands-on, and I am so not attentive,” she said.
The concepts Stephens taught, such as the key points of pond life, would make a good unit for her classroom, Springer said.
“You never know what you’re going to expose (students) to that they’ll have a passion for,” she said.
Roxanne Coleman, of Columbia, S.C., flew to Lansing to attend the workshop for the first time, even though her employer, Pure Fishing, Inc., has supplied fishing resources to Project FISH at a reduced rate for years.
“I’ve seen some videos online, but after knowing of this program for about 12 years, I thought it was long overdue that I come,” Coleman said.
Coleman said her goal at Pure Fishing is to help people have a good fishing experience that includes being able to teach, train and educate.
“I want to see the interest of the people who are here,” she said.
Passing the fishing information onto kids is important because there is a lost generation of people who do not spend time outside, Stephens said.
“There’s a whole nature deficit disorder thing going on where kids don’t even get a chance to see the outdoors,” he said. “They spend maybe 15 minutes a day waiting outdoors for the bus. There are resources right in their own backyard that they can study and learn from.”
John Hesse, an adjunct faculty member in MSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, has been through the workshop before and said the information he learned has been applied to many of his lesson plans.
Hesse said he earned his masters degree in fisheries and wildlife and loves working with fishing and youth.
“I’m retired now and I get to actually put some of my knowledge into action with the youth and make sure we ensure the future of fishing,” Hesse said. “If we get kids out fishing and enjoying the outdoors, then they’re going to like to do that rather than being in places they shouldn’t be, doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”
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