Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
PWLC Summer Biology Camp and Teacher Training
Midwest Region, June 15, 2007
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June 11 – 15, was a time of discovery and adventure for students and teachers at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.  The Center hosted its second annual “Summer Explorers Biology Camp” for students entering sixth and seventh grades, along with a concurrent “Teaching in the Outdoor Classroom” workshop for teachers. 

It was a great opportunity for students and teachers to learn together.  The camp and workshop were led by Dave Ellis and Chip McAllister, Fergus Falls ISD 544 teachers, as well as Laura Bonneau, Teresa Jaskiewicz, and Molly Stoddard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service environmental educators stationed at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center.

Nine teachers and non-formal educators spent the week learning about authentic, place-based education and how to integrate the outdoor classroom into teaching subjects like science, math, reading, and writing. 

Each teacher was paired with a small group of Summer Explorers (students attending the camp), and they spent the week learning and discovering the prairie wetlands ecosystem together.  Hands-on activities such as aquatic plant and macroinvertebrate studies, prairie plant identification, sound mapping, and other field investigations made the camp rewarding for everyone involved. 

Participants learned about Ernest Thompson Seton, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Byrd Baylor, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and other famous naturalists throughout the week. 

In the words of one teacher, “It didn’t feel like a workshop…it was like going back in time to summer camp.  I love hands on learning.”  Another teacher appreciated that “instead of floods of printed curriculum, I got strategies and practiced them and can see how they might fit into my teaching style.” 

Student responses to the camp were overwhelmingly positive, too.  Participants not only wanted to expand the camp to an overnight experience, but several of them also wanted to come back for the camp next year, even as teaching assistants.  Once again, the combination kids’ camp and teacher workshop was an outstanding success.

Contact Info: Kenneth Garrahan, 505-248-6632, ken_garrahan@fws.gov
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