Teaching the Teachers

While some teachers spend the summer relaxing and recharging from the school year, other teachers are driven to learn more.  The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has created a program for teachers who want to keep learning over the summer. The Academy of Natural Resources is a weeklong experience targeted towards teachers to help them learn about the many roles the DNR plays in managing our state resources.  The experience is designed to give teachers hands-on lessons they can then take back to their classrooms and teach their students.

The department offers two weeklong programs that qualify for both SCECH Credits (Michigan Department of Education) and graduate credits (Ferris State University). ANR classic is held at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center on Lake Higgins and ANR North takes place at Michigan Tech University’s Ford Center.

This year I had the opportunity to join in on the learning at ANR Classic.  I joined the group participating in the Forests, Fields, and Fins program.  This course covers all about resource management. On each day of this, week teachers experience a different division within the DNR. Teachers spend time with wildlife biologists, a fisheries biologist, a forester, and a conservation officer. Working alongside DNR professionals in rivers and lakes, forests and fields, they learn interesting ways to integrate these experiences into the classroom.

I came up for the day the teachers were spending with the fisheries division, and I picked a great day to join in on the action.  The morning started with a lesson on fisheries management and how fish biologists collect data and make their decisions to conserve the resources.  After about an hour in the classroom, it was time to move out onto the water.  The DNR staff had set gill nets and a small trap net.  They placed these nets to give the teachers hands-on opportunity to sample fish and find out what was in Higgins Lake. The teachers caught a few lake trout, some whitefish, and a couple of perch.  They had quite the experience hauling in the nets and untangling the fish from them. Once the fish were boated the biologists showed how they take samples from the fish and determine age structures.

After coming off Higgins Lake and refueling with lunch, we headed to a stream environment.  In the stream, we worked with fisheries technicians to do some electroshocking and macroinvertebrate sampling.  Using electric wands holding a current in the water we drew fish out of logjams and snags and plopped them into buckets.  Once we had sampled about 250 yards of streams, we sorted the fish by species and age class and discussed how teachers can teach their students about fisheries.

While one group of teachers was electroshocking the other group of teachers was learning about stream ecology and macroinvertebrates. This is something schools can do with their kids on nearby bodies of water and I have yet to meet a group of kids or adults who have not been intrigued by aquatic insects.

Overall it was a great day to be in Northern Michigan and the excitement the teachers had learning about the natural world was contagious.  All of the conversations over meals were about how they were going to incorporate their new knowledge back into their classrooms and how much their kids were going to learn.

This program runs every year and up to 60 teachers can participate in the weeklong event. For more information on the program visit https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79135_79220_81127—,00.html

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