What have our AWLS Teachers been up to?

 In Education

Find out how our AWLS Teachers are bringing the outdoors into their classrooms!

Last year the Lansing SCI chapter sent two local teachers to American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS.)

Kate List is a 5th grade teacher at Our Savior Lutheran in Lansing and Lana Clayton teachers 4th-8th grade at Mid Michigan Leadership Academy

A quick reminder about what AWLS is. From the SCI Foundation Website:

Established in 1976 with the vision of providing educators with a useful hands-on experience that they can bring home to their classrooms, AWLS has provided an accredited conservation education program for more than 6,000 teachers who reach more than a million students annually and a challenging experience for more than 1,700 high school students.

What are the AWLS Teachers doing now?

We caught up with Kate and Lana recently to see how they have used what they learned in their classrooms. Check it out! 

The Big Take Away

Lana said her two biggest take aways from the program were:
  1. The concrete realization that hunting and fishing licenses are the main funding source for species conservation efforts in the United States.
  2. Learning the startlingly high number of students who are considered to have Nature Deficit Disorder.

Lana went on to say, “Both of these topics left my progressive mind reeling.”

When asked what stood out the most to her, Kate said, “Prior to attending AWLS in Jackson, Wyoming, I held some big misunderstandings about hunting.  I did not see hunting as related to conservation efforts. In fact – and despite the reality that my husband is a hunter – I saw hunting as harsh and “barbaric” in certain regards.  Now, I know this is far from the truth. Hunting and fishing are so inherently linked to keeping a balanced ecosystem.  If done properly (according to local rules and regulations), hunting and fishing keep species populations in check while providing an excellent source of food for people.  I am now a proponent of hunting.”

Trying New ThingsAWLS Teachers

Both teachers experienced new things while out in Wyoming–which is one of the best things about AWLS. Those teachers can take what they experienced back to their students and get the next generation of hunters and conservationists excited too!

Lana had never tried fly fishing before, or making her own flies. “I also got to try my hand at the hatchet toss. Seeing a moose and her baby, the prong horn, and grouse for the first time was fun too!”
Kate revealed, “Before ALWS, I had never shot a gun in my life. During AWLS, I shot a pistol, a revolver, and a shotgun.  I also learned how to properly clean a rifle. It was a lot of fun and I learned many of the safety precautions to adhere to when using a gun.”

A Better Understanding

Both teachers agreed that they left Wyoming with a greater understanding of the role nature, hunting, and conservation plays in the lives of everyone, including education.

Kate said, “I now see hunting as an important conservation strategy as opposed to a cruel, barbaric practice. Hunting game helps keep our ecosystems in balance and also provides a much more healthy, nutrient-rich food option for people as opposed to highly-processed meat. “

Lana had a very similar experience and said, “The program solidified my tolerance for hunting big game. Knowing that hunters are the only financial support the science of conservation has, was shocking.  If people love the outdoors and the animals within, they must allow hunters to harvest.  The only other option would be to create new taxes.”


What are they doing now?

These two teachers are making great strides in their classrooms and schools with the knowledge they gained. This is why we send teachers to this program!
Lana has started a National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) at the Mid Michigan Leadership Academy!  She said her 4th-8th graders are so enthused, as well as the staff.  “I have also created a Green Board with Michigan endangered species, to support our Michigan Green School efforts.  I also taught a short History of Conservation to my 6th-8th graders, who were amazed at all the land “they owned”.”
Kate also started an archery program at Our Savior. Here is what she had to say about everything she is doing, “Besides starting an archery program, I’ve taken students outside for more observational learning this year.  In light of my experience at AWLS, I made one of my beginning of the year goals to…  “get students outdoors for education so that they participate in team-building activities and hands-on science in God’s natural creation.”   This spring, I hope to take students outside for the shelter building/survival activity we did as a group at AWLS.  I also hope to incorporate two activities – the “Habitat Shuffle” and “Oh Deer!” into my science plans for the end of the year. AWLS also inspired me to visit the Jackson, MI YMCA camp to see if this week long overnight experience would be possible for our 5th graders in the future.  At this camp, students learn survival skills like fire building and a lot about conservation and local ecology.”

Life-Long Friendships

Just like attending summer camp as a kid, these teachers form lasting friendships. Last year’s group stays in regular contact with each other.

Kate’s classroom even have pen pals as a result. “The group of educators who attended AWLS have all stayed in touch via a group email.  We share with one another if/how we’ve incorporated the NASP program at our school and other ways we’ve applied what we learned during AWLS.  We also fondly reminisce about our time at Jackson, WY. One of the 5th grade teachers I met from Pennsylvania and I decided to have our classes become pen pals.  Our classes have been writing letters to one another all year long. They love it!”

Lana added that they also created a Facebook group that helps them stay in touch. “We are planning on a reunion-trip to Isle Royale this summer.”

AWLS Group 2018

Spreading the Word

Both teachers are also doing a great job spreading the word about AWLS and the opportunity that our chapter provides in helping to fund the experience.

Kate: “I have shared my experience with my staff and anyone who is curious.  Every time “outdoor education” comes up in conversation with our staff or other friends, I gush about the AWLS program.  I also shared specifics and pictures of my experience in Jackson, WY with friends on Facebook.”

Lana: “I posted and tagged all me teacher-friends about AWLS.  I also sent out NASP training dates to all my colleagues”

When asked what she would tell another teacher about the program, Kate enthusiastically replied, “GO!  It is so worth the time and can often be paid for through your local SCI Foundation.  While at AWLS, you will become the student again – learning about stream ecology (aquatic invertebrates) by collecting and observing your own water samples, becoming masterful in archery through learning how to teach the 11 steps of NASP, improving your marksmanship and learning about firearm safety, and soaking in information about birds, buffalo, elk, moose and other wildlife while hiking through the beauty of Jackson, WY – not to mention a trip to downtown Jackson Hole and an exciting whitewater rafting excursion!  The experience is once in a lifetime and you come home with so many ready-to-teach lessons for your classroom.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Thank you to these two teachers, and all the teachers who are bringing the outdoors into the classrooms and educating our children about the wonders of the natural world.
If you are a teacher (or know one) who would like more information about the AWLS program and scholarships through the SCI Lansing Chapter, please email us at scilansing@gmail.com.

We want to send more teachers this summer!

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