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KODIAK: Recess Reflections - What trumps swing sets for a third grader?
Alaska Region, December 14, 2015
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Kodiak Refuge Youth Leaders, Caleb Callahan (on the right)with K-1st grade campers. After learning about seaweed they become Seaweed Superheroes with their own special adaptations.
Kodiak Refuge Youth Leaders, Caleb Callahan (on the right)with K-1st grade campers. After learning about seaweed they become Seaweed Superheroes with their own special adaptations. - Photo Credit: FWS/Kari Eschenbacher
Payton Callahan, fourth from the left (back row) sits with Camp Director and her camp group on Buskin beach.
Payton Callahan, fourth from the left (back row) sits with Camp Director and her camp group on Buskin beach. - Photo Credit: FWS/Nicci Condon
Payton and Kari reconnecting at North Star Elementary School in Kodiak, Alaska.
Payton and Kari reconnecting at North Star Elementary School in Kodiak, Alaska. - Photo Credit: Elizabeth Ridgeway/KIBSD

What would compel a third grader to skip the swing sets and spend recess having a conversation with a substitute teacher?

If that teacher also happens to spends her summer months working for the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge as the director for the popular science camp program, Salmon Camp that would explain a lot.

 

Salmon Camp Director Kari Eschenbacher recently shared the conversation she had with 3rd grader, Payton Callahan during recess at North Star Elementary in Kodiak, Alaska.

During this December morning recess, instead of playing with her friends, Payton chose to walk alongside her Salmon Camp Director and reminisce about camp and the days of summer. Immersing herself in reflection Payton asked Kari, “What is your favorite part of camp?” Kari replied that one of her favorite things is hiking along the trails with campers and doing activities along the way while they hike. Kari then asked Payton the same question and Payton said her favorites were getting to see the life cycle stages of salmon in the vials (preserved specimens), going birding and then summarizing that actually everything was her favorite.

Payton reflected back on the birds that they viewed with their binoculars on the birding walk at camp six months ago. She remembered and mentioned by name the Black-legged Kittiwake, Black Oystercatcher and Horned Puffin. This is how they spent recess - walking and talking outside, sharing stories about what they loved about Salmon Camp.

Payton’s older brother Kaleb Callahan is also a Salmon Camper. This year he is in seventh grade which meant, in addition to participating in our camp for middle schoolers (which includes a boat trip to a neighboring island for a three day camping trip!) he could also apply to mentor a younger camp session as a Kodiak Refuge Youth Leader (KRYL). This is something Kaleb has looked forward to. I remember a couple years ago he told the KRYL student who was helping at his camp, “When I’m in 7th grade I want to be like you and help at Salmon Camp”. This year Kaleb did just that, even foregoing other travel opportunities because he said “volunteering at Salmon Camp was his number one priority for the summer”.

Winter at the Kodiak Refuge, among other things, is the season for writing reports and typing up funding requests for summer programs such as Salmon Camp. So it was heartwarming to hear Kari’s recess story about the lasting impacts and memories created from a week at science camp.

Payton, Kaleb and others like them are what help drive environmental educators during these winter months of paperwork and through what can be the hectic summer months of work at a frenzied pace. Their enthusiasm for learning, energy for the outdoors, kindness, care for the planet, and their appreciation for refuge programs are humbling and just the warm “hug” needed in December.

The Kodiak Refuge is fortunate to have the opportunity to engage these young, eager learners. We’re also grateful for dedicated and caring staff, like Kari Eschenbacher, who help guide and mentor them. After all, she trumps even playground swing sets.


Contact Info: Michelle Lawson, 907-487-0283, Michelle_Lawson@fws.gov
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