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

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

posted at the request of Mr. Wurfel --AW

-----Original Message-----
From: Bradley Wurfel [mailto:wurfelbj@michigan.gov]
Sent: Thursday, May 30, 2002 12:24 PM
To: 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:/ DNR and Env/Natural History education

I'm sorry you found our website confusing, but pleased that you at
least found the information therein thought-provoking. Like all other
branches of state government, we are in the process of merging into the
michigan.gov site, which is designed specifically to make all state
government information uniform and more user-friendly. Look for that
official announcement soon.

I didn't miss your point about natural history / environmental
education. It's just that we do so much great outreach through each DNR
division that it would take days to type it all out. Our 4th grade
curriculum, which was designed by educators for use by 4th grade
teachers, is only one tool (albeit a popular one). We send biologists
and conservation officers into classrooms throughout the state to
educate students about our wonderful resources and how to enjoy them
safely. These same conservation professionals work with community and
professional groups all over Michigan to carry our message and to
encourage all Michigan residents to take advantage of and responsibly
care for our natural treasures.

The DNR recognizes the paramount importance of educating future
generations about natural resources and our conservation heritage. We
offer the Kids in the Park program, the Adventure Rangers program, and
the Outdoor Explorers Club, to name just a few. The Kids in the Park
program is an outdoor classroom experience teachers can offer to their
students, using state parks as learning centers for history, science and
cultural lessons. It is part of the 4th grade curriculum. The Adventure
Rangers Program is a team of trained naturalists who specialize in
providing nature programs that are fun and informative each summer. The
Outdoor Explorers Club is a seasonal newsletter for children of all
ages, designed to familiarize them with all the great opportunities and
experiences the outdoors has to offer.

Beyond that, our park interpreters regularly guide classes through
state parks and visitors centers, providing exactly the kinds of
information you discussed. These interpreters also schedule regular,
seasonal interpretive opportunities for visitors of all ages to
experience nature hikes focused on various flora and fauna
identification. We send biologist, conservation officers and foresters
to scheduled special events throughout Michigan each year  events in
parks, malls, and local communities  to help introduce people to
conservation issues by offering hands-on experiences. All of our myriad
educational offerings are intended to helping people of all ages
understand the importance of conservation a little better. Obviously, it
is a vast subject, but our bottom line is to continually work to help
every Michigan resident better understand the importance of Michigan's

I could go on, but it might be simpler and quicker to simply encourage
everyone who would like further information on these and other DNR
programs to visit our web site, www.midnr.com. Those who would like to
be kept apprized of upcoming educational and interpretive opportunities
can sign onto the DNR wire by clicking the "press releases" link and
following the instructions.

Thanks again for raising the points you did, Anne. We are always
pleased for an opportunity to discuss our programs and our fine work to
protect and manage Michigan's natural resources for the use and
enjoyment of current and future generations.
Brad Wurfel, Press Secretary
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

>>> "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org> 05/30/02 12:19PM >>>
Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>


With all due respect, and recognizing that I have not seen the packets
information that are sent to the teachers in 4th grade classes, after
through almost all of the pages on the DNR website related to the Kids
Parks program you describe below, I have two comments. One, you missed
point about natural history/environmental education under the DNR's
entirely and two, the information presented on the webpage, if
indicative of

the information provided to schools, is a far cry from the high
accurate and complete information our children should be exposed to
our natural resources!!

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

On point two, while some of the information on the website was accurate
informative, I was quite surprised at how poor most of it is.  First,
is no easy way to find the Kids in Parks website on the DNR website if
don't know it is there.  If you know to look for it, you may eventually
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
in the blanks to get stuff sent to you.

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

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

The animals featured for Hartwick Pines are: white tailed deer, skunk,
possum, Great
Horned Owl, Kirtland Warbler, black bear, porcupine and wild turkey.
these animals, only one, or possibly two, could be considered
with old growth in any way.  The Kirtland Warbler is featured, with a
page hand drawn overview, which includes the rather bizarre statement
"Michigan is Home to the world's supply of Kirtland's Warblers."
come in populations, not "supplies".  The Kirtland Warbler drawings,
cartoon fashion include one of a KW yelling at Smoky the Bear, which
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,
in the whole site does it mention the terms "endangered" or
saying instead "Man holds the slender ecological threads supporting
Kirtland's primary habitats. If there is enough concern for their
the threads will never be severed."  While I see what they are trying
say, I find it odd not to use this to use the proper term in this
Some animal sections of parks did better -- the Tahquamenon Falls State
animals section is well written, not talking down to the kids but
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
issues in the parks featured.  The links page, for example, lists each
the parks featured and links to various resources.  Bay City
Area, which is used to talk about wetlands, lists two sites: an Iowa
University site, and a USGS site.  Maybury State Park, which
agriculture, lists twenty agricultural links.  Yes, there is a room to
discuss industry and history in a teaching situation like this in the
but here is a rare chance to teach the value of those natural resources
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
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
but also wonder that it appears only to be geared to 4th graders.  As
vast majority of folks on this listserve know, those most committed to
protection and enjoyment of our great outdoors are those who have grown
with it.  That is why the loss of the naturalists at the parks is such
problem -- so many Michiganders camp, but if their kids main
experiences are
only with the concessionaires and those in the campgrounds enjoying
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
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,
friendly. It is a program that highlights Michigan's world-class
resources. The fourth-grade curriculum is being used by 65% of all
Michigan 4th grade teachers in their classrooms. Of these teachers,
report that the program enhances student learning and strengthens MEAP
testing strategies; 86% believe the program has relevance to the
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
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
members of the conservation community. We have received awards from
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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