Inspiring Youth Program at La Crosse FHC
BY NICHOLAS BERNDT, LA CROSSE FHC
Credit : Nick Berndt, USFWS
La Crosse Area Girl Scouts from Badgerland Troop 4069 received Silver Awards in a ceremony at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) La Crosse Fisheries Resource Center. The award is the most prestigious and highest ranking award a Girl Scout Cadet can receive. Their projects are the culmination of years of planning and work by the Scouts, and their projects will be a fun and interactive way to engage area youth with ecology of the Mississippi River.
Girl Scout Cadets Grace Amundson, Jennifer Hamann, and Amanda Clements worked with Troop Leader Kim Amundson and USFWS biologist Jennifer Bailey to help each Scout develop projects that would have a positive and lasting effect on community youth with a focus on nature, fishing, and the aquatic ecology of the upper Mississippi and the La Crosse area. Ms. Amundson, Ms. Hamann, and Ms. Clements dedicated over 150 hours of research, designing, and hard work to create a group of related activities and games that are interactive, educational, and fun for all ages for the Visitor Center located at the USFWS La Crosse Fisheries Resource Center.
The items are also packable and transportable so our outreach staff can add them to educational presentations anywhere. The first game is a “fishing pond” where pre-school aged and young elementary players use a fishing rod with a magnet at the end to catch as many fish as they can within a certain time frame. Each fish species is color-coded and is valued according to their abundance in real environments, so the activity can double as a math and ecology exercise for elementary or middle school players. Higher level predators such as northern pike have a higher point value because there are less of them in the “pond”. This abundance is relative to the higher amount of lower scoring bluegill. This shows how predator and prey are balanced in an ecosystem. The second game is a fishing skills contest where players take turns casting to a bull’s-eye and scoring as many points as possible. Many of the kids in the upper elementary and middle school age group this game is aimed at have never used a real fishing rod and reel before. It’s a great way to encourage patience, hone casting skills, and practice some addition by adding up scores. It also gives kids confidence and an experience they can take into a real world fishing environment. The third activity is a Fish and Wildlife Scavenger Hunt. In this activity informational cards with images and related facts by fish and freshwater mussel species, both taxonomic and ecological, are scattered around the Visitor’s Center. Each card has a picture of a fish or freshwater mussel native to the Coulee Region, and has a paragraph describing its natural history. These include some of the less glamorous, but no less important species such as mooneye and big mouth buffalo. The package comes complete with a Sustainability and Maintenance Plan, as well as digital copies for updating or reprints, and contact information for repairs or re-stocking by the Cadets.
These tools are expected to have a long life cycle in the Community and will help area youth connect with fish and mussels of the upper Mississippi River and area fishing holes. Fishing and enjoying the natural beauty of the Mississippi River are one of this community’s best assets; with a little help and introduction more families may enjoy more of it for a healthy, lifelong relationship with nature.
We thank the Girl Scout Cadets for all their hard work and will be utilizing the teaching tools they gave us whenever we can. We wish them the very best in their future endeavors!