Wisconsin >> Ikes in Wisconsin were engaging youth in conservation and outdoor recreation as far back as 1939, when the Portage County Chapter held a fishing day for almost 1,000 local youth. Conservation Warden (and chapter member) Frank Hornberg gave a speech about conservation and administered an oath to the youth to be good stewards of natural resources.
Fast forward to 1956, when the Wisconsin Division initiated its Young Wisconsin Conservationist program. Each year, League chapters throughout Wisconsin selected high school students to spend one weekend at the Young Wisconsin Conservationist camp, where they learned about natural resource conservation from men and women working in that field. The number of students attending camp each year varied. For example, the Bill Cook Chapter typically sent between 3 and 30 high school students from Portage County to the camp. Many chapters sponsored part or all of the students’ costs for camp.
The camp thrived for decades. However, by 2000, interest had started to fade as high school students’ weekends were taken up with school and sports events. So Wisconsin Division leaders began to reimagine the conservation camp as something they could deliver directly to schools.
In 2006, the Wisconsin Division re-launched the program as the Young Wisconsin Conservationist Environmental Education Program. The program now provides funds to help K-12 classes carry out conservation activities. Each project must include “hands-on” experience and must benefit both the youth and the environment. Up to $200 is approved per project.
Projects have included wildflower and prairie planting, tree planting, stream improvement, and wildlife and bird studies. In 2012, the Wisconsin Division distributed $2,500 to schools across the state for conservation projects. But the division has the capacity to do more!
If you know of a class or conservation project in Wisconsin that might benefit from these grants, send the organizers to the Wisconsin Division Web site at www.iwla.org/wisconsindivision for details. They can also e-mail WIYWC@yahoo.com.