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Residential Environmental Learning Center in Fergus Falls


_____For Immediate Release        Contact: 
August 10, 1998              Dan Sobieck, External Affairs 612/713-5403
         EA98-58             Dan_Sobieck@mail.fws.gov
                             Tim Bodeen, PWLC Director 218/739-2291 
The nation's first residential environmental learning center operated by the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened Saturday, August 8, 1998, in Fergus Falls,
Minnesota, at the newly-constructed Prairie Wetlands Learning Center (PWLC).  
The  PWLC, built at a cost of $3 million, is the result of a unique partnership 
between the city of Fergus Falls, the State of Minnesota, and the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service.  
The new PWLC, hosting students from Minnesota as well as North and South Dakota,
will educate students and the public on the prairie pothole ecosystem.  
Environmental education programs at the 320-acre site will include overnight 
residential programs, day programs, summer camps, and special events for all 
visitors.  Up to 96 students and instructors can be accommodated in the 
fully-accessible dormitory facility.
In her keynote grand opening address, Janet Ady, Chief of Education Outreach at 
the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia, cited the Fergus 
Falls PWLC as an important regional education tool.  "Environmental education is
a critical component of every student's education, and residential centers such 
as the Prairie Wetland Center, which actually immerse students in the curriculum
over a period of days, are excellent education tools."
Not only are these programs effective, "the kids love 'em," notes Ady.  "When 
you provide hands-on training, where the kids actually get out in the field and 
'get their hands dirty,' you can see the excitement in their faces--and you know
they're really learning."  
There were plenty of opportunities for just that type of experience as Ady 
donned hip boots and helped students collect pond samples at one of the many 
wetlands located at the PWLC during the grand opening.  When asked what he 
caught, one student replied "bugs."  A closer examination by PWLC biologists 
revealed 25 different types of invertebrates, just a sample of the life which 
exists under the surface of the fertile prairie wetlands.
Along with students, PWLC Director Tim Bodeen also invited the public to visit 
the facility.  "We're located just a mile off I-94," said Bodeen.  "In addition 
to our education programs we've got 35 wetlands on the grounds and self-guided 
walking tours along four miles of trails surrounding the Center.  And the 
Center's open year-round, so we encourage everyone to stop in and visit when 
they're in the Fergus Falls area."
Bodeen has already received requests from educators who would like to reserve 
the facilities for their students, with calls coming from Fergus Falls, the Twin
Cities and Fargo.  "Once we have all our programs in place, we expect to attract
students from all across the Midwest," said Bodeen.  "This is the only 
residential facility we know of that's dedicated primarily to teaching
about the prairie pothole ecosystem--so we expect to be very busy."  The PWLC 
will try to meet each individual school's curriculum needs.  Bodeen and his 
staff are now in the process of preparing Graduation Standard packages for 
Minnesota schools which use the facility.
For more information about the PWLC, call 1-800-266-4972 or access the PWLC 
website at www.fws.gov/r3pao/wmd/index.html.   No appointment is necessary to 
visit the PWLC.  Daily hours are 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.  The PWLC 
is located just off I-94 at exit #57 on the Highway 210 bypass near Fergus 

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