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E-M:/ DNR and Env/Natural History education

Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>


With all due respect, and recognizing that I have not seen the packets of
information that are sent to the teachers in 4th grade classes, after going
through almost all of the pages on the DNR website related to the Kids in
Parks program you describe below, I have two comments. One, you missed my
point about natural history/environmental education under the DNR's programs
entirely and two, the information presented on the webpage, if indicative of
the information provided to schools, is a far cry from the high quality,
accurate and complete information our children should be exposed to about
our natural resources!!

On point one, until the late 1980's, when only one naturalist still worked
for the DNR (Wendell Hoover, I believe, at Hartwick Pines State Park), the
DNR had on staff scientists and educators whose job it was to explain and
help the public understand the natural world they were visiting when in our
parks or forests.  The best handouts in the world, or displays on the trail
can't explain to a 10 year old, or a 30 year old, that the sound they are
hearing is the wood frog, a rare species in Michigan, or that it is a
pileated woodpecker pounding a dead trea, and that it sounds different from
a flicker or a red-bellied woodpecker.  While some school teachers will make
marvelous guides in the natural areas, they may not know that a bear denned
here during the winter and had two cubs, and the scratch marks on this tree
were from the bear. Or that the flowers blooming right now are a type of
trillium, some of which are protected by law in Michigan.  They may be able
to show them how to use fishing tackle, but probably won't know the best
fishing holes, and will be very unlikely to take a whole pack of kids
fishing quietly along a stretch of stream in the forest.  These kids are
very unlikely to encounter a naturalist or a ranger, even, walking down a
trail and able to devote an unplanned hour to an impromptu tour of the woods
in that area, or who back tracks to show the kids the fresh prints or scat
left along the trail by an animal.

On point two, while some of the information on the website was accurate and
informative, I was quite surprised at how poor most of it is.  First, there
is no easy way to find the Kids in Parks website on the DNR website if you
don't know it is there.  If you know to look for it, you may eventually find
it by chance --
http://www.dnr.state.mi.us/edu/flash/DNRIntroPages/DNRlaps.html is one
portal for those wishing to look for this. The Outdoor Explorers Club on the
front page of the DNR doesn't even link to this, even though it gives a fill
in the blanks to get stuff sent to you.

Once inside these websites, however, I have to say I was quite taken aback
at the info presented.  Here are some excerpts from sections of the site
that really concerned me.  Several state parks are used as touchstones to
offer additional details about issues, and through links one connects to
information about animals and history, etc. I followed the Hartwick Pines
State Park sites through in part because this park is primarily noteworthy
as one of the very rare places in our state where presettlement old growth
forests still remain, and I assumed that would get some attention.  Instead,
here is what we are told under Hartwick Pines State Park:

>During the logging boom, most of Michigan's forest were cut down to provide
>lumber for growing U.S. towns, cities and railroads. Little thought was
>given to the effect this deforestation would have on the land.
>Now we know that forest management is the way to protect and control our
>forests as valuable renewable natural resources. Today, forest management
>considers wildlife, water and air quality, and human needs to provide
>recreation, clean air and water and products we use in our daily life.
>"The Michigan natural resources managers have dedicated their lives to make
>sure that the state's forest will provide resource assets for the future."

The animals featured for Hartwick Pines are: white tailed deer, skunk,
possum, Great
Horned Owl, Kirtland Warbler, black bear, porcupine and wild turkey.  Of
these animals, only one, or possibly two, could be considered associated
with old growth in any way.  The Kirtland Warbler is featured, with a two
page hand drawn overview, which includes the rather bizarre statement
"Michigan is Home to the world's supply of Kirtland's Warblers."  Creatures
come in populations, not "supplies".  The Kirtland Warbler drawings, in
cartoon fashion include one of a KW yelling at Smoky the Bear, which is
fine, but then also describes the birds a wintering in the Bahamas, with a
with a KW with sombrero on its head (Bahamas is not Mexico!). Also, nowhere
in the whole site does it mention the terms "endangered" or "threatened",
saying instead "Man holds the slender ecological threads supporting the
Kirtland's primary habitats. If there is enough concern for their survival,
the threads will never be severed."  While I see what they are trying to
say, I find it odd not to use this to use the proper term in this context.
Some animal sections of parks did better -- the Tahquamenon Falls State Park
animals section is well written, not talking down to the kids but clearly
explaining these fascinating creatures. It appears the potential is there to
put good info out.

There is also an excessive emphasis, I thought, on non-natural resource
issues in the parks featured.  The links page, for example, lists each of
the parks featured and links to various resources.  Bay City Recreation
Area, which is used to talk about wetlands, lists two sites: an Iowa State
University site, and a USGS site.  Maybury State Park, which emphasizes
agriculture, lists twenty agricultural links.  Yes, there is a room to
discuss industry and history in a teaching situation like this in the parks,
but here is a rare chance to teach the value of those natural resources not
just as they are farmed, mined, collected, cut or otherwise manipulated, but
as they exist.  In the DNR contacts, they do list folks in the Natural
Heritage Program and the Watchable Wildlife Program, but somehow as a whole,
this site comes across indicating that the only way to get kids to pay
attention to the wonders of the outdoors is through cartoons and gimmicks --
what a tragedy!

I certainly hope the curriculum is a lot better than what is on the website,
but also wonder that it appears only to be geared to 4th graders.  As the
vast majority of folks on this listserve know, those most committed to
protection and enjoyment of our great outdoors are those who have grown up
with it.  That is why the loss of the naturalists at the parks is such a
problem -- so many Michiganders camp, but if their kids main experiences are
only with the concessionaires and those in the campgrounds enjoying their
RVs, they won't miss the lost wetlands, animals and opportunities.


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
[mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net]On Behalf Of Bradley Wurfel
Sent: Wednesday, May 29, 2002 1:21 PM
To: <"Enviro-Mich"; anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org
Cc: Rob (Arnold R.) Abent; Richard Asher; Carol Bambery; George
Burgoyne; Linda Burnham; K Cool; James Ekdahl; Guy Gordon; Rebecca
Humphries; Dennis Knapp; Arminda Koch; Lowen Schuett; Kelley Smith;
Kelli Sobel; Rodney Stokes; Yolanda Taylor; Judy Tkaczyk
Subject: Re: E-M:/ FW: International RV Club lauds McLain State Park

Enviro-Mich message from "Bradley Wurfel" <wurfelbj@michigan.gov>

Anne, it is a terrific honor, and thank you for providing an opportunity
to bolster understanding about what our state parks system is doing to
"provide the best protection of and education about our natural

In October of 1999, we initiated a supplemental to the existing
Michigan History curriculum that is user friendly and, importantly, MEAP
friendly. It is a program that highlights Michigan's world-class natural
resources. The fourth-grade curriculum is being used by 65% of all
Michigan 4th grade teachers in their classrooms. Of these teachers, 85%
report that the program enhances student learning and strengthens MEAP
testing strategies; 86% believe the program has relevance to the overall
curriculum; and, 94% report the program is appealing to students, and
therefore contributes to learning.

This exciting, fun, Michigan-specific natural history and outdoor
conservation curriculum is clearly catching on in Michigan's public,
private and charter schools. It has created an interest in students and
teachers to learn more about our outdoor heritage, so they feel
comfortable accessing Michigan's state parks and forests with their
families, today and in the future.

To help ensure this linkage, we created the Kids in the Park program,
where park activities incorporate topics such as our Great Lakes
shoreline, trail adventures, camping fun, Michigan fish (and how to
catch them), marshes and wetlands, birds, and general wildlife
management, among many examples. This program has not gone unnoticed by
members of the conservation community. We have received awards from the
National Association of State Park Directors, the Michigan Recreation
and Parks Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the
prestigious Danial Flaherty Park Excellence Award, which encompasses
this entire region. We're hopeful that the Sierra Club might some
positive acknowledgment to this state-of-the-art, best-in-the-nation
outdoor curriculum.

Finally, we invite you and all enviromichers to personally visit our
Visitor Centers in the state parks system. A few stand-outs that focus
on protecting conservation heritage and educating youngsters of every
age include:
Hoffmaster, and the Genevieve Gillette Visitors Center, where
Michigan's coastal sand dunes are the focus.
The Waterloo Discovery Center, where geology and the importance of
Michigan's surface and subsurface mineral resources are the focus;
Bay City, where our wetland heritage and wetland protection and
education are the focus;
and, you might also consider the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing
Heritage Center.

Thanks for providing us an opportunity to respond.

Brad Wurfel
Press Secretary,
Michigan Department of Natural Resources


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