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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Junior Stewards Program Receives High Praise From Parents

Region 3, October 5, 2012
Junior Stewards discover what lies below the surface during their monthly excursions into the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
Junior Stewards discover what lies below the surface during their monthly excursions into the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. - Photo Credit: n/a
The 100 degree temperatures in July didn't detour the Junior Stewards and their parents from paddling in the backwaters of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
The 100 degree temperatures in July didn't detour the Junior Stewards and their parents from paddling in the backwaters of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. - Photo Credit: n/a
Letter:
The Junior Stewards is an excellent program, well organized and educationally enriching.  Our eleven-year-old son has had a hunger to learn about the out-of-doors after having studied about plants, animals, and related sciences in the 4th grade.  While attending the annual eagle watch event last January at the local college, he found out about the Junior Stewards program and got involved.  Each month we look forward to a variety of activities, subjects and presenters, all of whom are experts in their field.  Not only is information presented in various ways, but the hands-on experience is just what this age needs to discover and experience nature first-hand.  Each participant is assigned gear in the form of vest, backpack, GPS, camera, binoculars, manuals, and notebook, in which to journal their findings.  At the start of the year each child chose his own personal area to observe and record changes which occur from month to month.  Some of our excursions take place at the refuge and others require transportation to a different site, utilizing the many wonderful attractions in this area.  One of the nice features is that parents/grandparents are encouraged to participate, assist, and learn right alongside the children.  Pam Steinhaus and her colleagues do a fantastic job of preparing, presenting, and passing on their enthusiasm and passion.  Not only are we learning and appreciating the wonders of the out-of-doors, but we are also realizing the importance of caring for our world, truly being stewards of the fascinating wildlife around us.  We know that this experience is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning for our son, and could even imagine him some day leading other junior stewards or his own children in a similar experience, passing on this awareness and appreciation of nature.  
Paul and Elizabeth Hopkins from  Clinton, IA
Letter: The Junior Stewards is an excellent program, well organized and educationally enriching. Our eleven-year-old son has had a hunger to learn about the out-of-doors after having studied about plants, animals, and related sciences in the 4th grade. While attending the annual eagle watch event last January at the local college, he found out about the Junior Stewards program and got involved. Each month we look forward to a variety of activities, subjects and presenters, all of whom are experts in their field. Not only is information presented in various ways, but the hands-on experience is just what this age needs to discover and experience nature first-hand. Each participant is assigned gear in the form of vest, backpack, GPS, camera, binoculars, manuals, and notebook, in which to journal their findings. At the start of the year each child chose his own personal area to observe and record changes which occur from month to month. Some of our excursions take place at the refuge and others require transportation to a different site, utilizing the many wonderful attractions in this area. One of the nice features is that parents/grandparents are encouraged to participate, assist, and learn right alongside the children. Pam Steinhaus and her colleagues do a fantastic job of preparing, presenting, and passing on their enthusiasm and passion. Not only are we learning and appreciating the wonders of the out-of-doors, but we are also realizing the importance of caring for our world, truly being stewards of the fascinating wildlife around us. We know that this experience is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning for our son, and could even imagine him some day leading other junior stewards or his own children in a similar experience, passing on this awareness and appreciation of nature. Paul and Elizabeth Hopkins from Clinton, IA - Photo Credit: n/a
Junior Stewards at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge.
Junior Stewards at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: n/a

This year a new program was launched at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Junior Stewards. Visitor Services Manager Pam Steinhaus, along with refuge friends group, The Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge, began offering the Junior Stewards program once a month. The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for the 16 youth. The programs are designed to help them care about the refuge so that they will want to care for the refuge.

Pam Steinhaus commented, "This is the first program I've had where there is a waiting list. We're taking these Junior Stewards out into the prairie to discover insects, grasses or whatever happens to be in their special spot. We also took them out on a canoeing adventure to discover what lies beneath the surface. I can see why we have a waiting list!"

Steinhaus had been working with West Carroll Elementary however the neighborhood school consolidated and moved further away from the outdoor classroom on the refuge. The success of that Environmental Education partnership was that they were using the refuge as an outdoor classroom. She went back to the drawing board and crafted this program out of a desire to continue repeat visits and also to grow future stewards of our natural resources and maybe even future Friends members.

This program is an environmental education program because it follows a course of study. It uses the theory and principals of an environmental education program. Environmental understanding develops as the Junior Stewards are presented with multiple opportunities to learn. As people learn about the environment, they often experience different areas of understanding: awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills and participation (Tbilisi Declaration, UNESCO/UNEP, 1978).

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge's Environmental Education Strategy states, The (Refuge) environmental education programs offer opportunities for students to become aware, knowledgeable, and a skilled citizenry which values and conserves the floodplain forest, prairies and wetlands of the Upper Mississippi River.

Steinhaus received a letter of support from a parent which highlights that the parents are seeing their son reflecting the signs of a lifelong commitment to conserving natural resources.

Contact Info: Cynthia Samples, 507-542-4232 ext.216, Cindy_Samples@fws.gov