Wisconsin > With support from the League’s Southwestern Chapter, elementary school students from two school districts enjoyed a “touch of the wild” at the 2015 Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo.
“My students said it was the best field trip they have ever taken,” said teacher Gina Hinderman. “Thank you, Ikes, for making it possible. I even tried shooting at the urging of the girls in my classes.”
Hinderman was among the record 2,380 students, chaperones, and teachers introduced to outdoor skills this year with the help of volunteer mentors and educators. More than 30 conservation groups teamed up with the Outdoor Heritage Education Center — the non-profit organization that founded the event — for the 2015 expo.
“The kids were so energized all the way home,” said teacher Robin Lange. “They talked on the bus about all the things they tried and enjoyed, from handling fish, snakes, and turtles to shooting BB guns and bows.”
The goal of the expo “is to introduce youth, families, and educators to a variety of outdoor activities, conservation, and safety training programs so they can choose which ones to explore further throughout the year,” explains Southwestern Chapter president Terry Sheffer.
Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, some schools cannot pay for buses to bring students to the free expo. That’s where the Ikes stepped in. The Southwestern Chapter capitalized on matching funds from other groups to pay for bus transportation, said chapter treasurer Gary Timmerman. League members understand the value of these events in creating a lifelong, positive impression on youngsters. The chapter partially funded transportation to last year’s expo as well. Additional funding comes from individuals and groups who want to connect students with natural resources and healthy outdoor activities.
“Where else can students be face-to-face with live wolves, lynx, bison, badgers, otters, and eagles and participate in archery, air gun, and so many fun activities, all in one location?” said Dale Brink, one of the Southwestern Chapter members who volunteered for the expo. Brink is involved year-round in youth archery programs.
The expo is held at the MacKenzie Center, an environmental education facility operated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. J.D. Smith, director of the MacKenzie Center, said, “We are excited to have the opportunity to host the Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo at the MacKenzie Center. The DNR is a supporting partner at many other expos and we are happy to continue that support by providing an ideal location for schools to bring students for this outdoor experience.”