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Bilingual Students on Target for Conservation Education in Two Languages

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service engaged 72 children from Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Wenatchee, Washington, in snowshoeing, a hatchery tour, archery practice and wildlife education.
Photo Credit: USFWS Pacific Region via Tumblr

Author: ATA Staff

A Tumblr blog by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region provided much of the information for this article.

Helping kids fall in love with archery and other conservation activities requires an effort that transcends language barriers. Just ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which recently chronicled the activities of 72 fifth-graders from Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Wenatchee, Washington. They had an amazing experience at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, including an introduction to archery.

The day’s activities included snowshoeing, a hatchery tour, archery practice and wildlife education. The students were guided by a team of biologists, educators and translators. Lewis and Clark Elementary serves kindergartners through fifth-graders in a multicultural environment, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tumblr blog. Many of the students speak Spanish, and some are new to English.

The students from Lewis and Clark Elementary listened carefully when English was spoken. But when the speaker translated the information into Spanish, hands shot up as polite listeners turned into engaged learners.

The hatchery’s two-person information and education staff serves a complex that includes two other hatcheries and the Mid-Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. Handling 72 students is a huge challenge, but park ranger Marjie Lodwick called in partners to help. She drew from the MCFWCO; the Wenatchee River Institute’s staff, who are certified archery instructors; and Team Naturaleza, an organization that offers informal natural-science education to Latino communities.

MCFWCO biologists offered the public snowshoe tours throughout winter, which is a slow time for biology fieldwork. “It’s fabulous for visitors,” said Julia Pinnix, an information and education manager. “They get to go on a tour with a biologist and hear about their work.”

Pinnix also trained Wenatchee River Institute staff to become certified archery instructors last year to build partnerships with other educational organizations. Pinnix let the WRI use the hatchery’s archery equipment for its programs in return for help at events. This is a sustainable model suggested at the Archery Trade Association’s Archery Academies. The academies help communities build a base for archery and bowhunting programs by training and certifying instructors to run archery programs safely and effectively.

The hatchery is also a member of Team Naturaleza, a partnership with multiple agencies, organizations and individuals. The partners’ goal is to invite Spanish speakers into the outdoors. Denise Monge, a Costa Rican native, was recently hired as an intern for Team Naturaleza. She recruited two Spanish-speakers, both fellow students at Wenatchee Valley College, to help with the program.

Lodwick also engaged two volunteers from WRI and six MCFWCO biologists, including Greg Fraser, who became fluent in Spanish while serving with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. Together with Monge’s recruits, they had enough instructors to break the students into four groups, each with a translator. The groups rotated from one activity to another in a planned schedule.

A team of biologists, educators and translators guided bilingual students through snowshoeing, a hatchery tour, archery practice and wildlife education.

During a bilingual hatchery tour, the students listened carefully when English was spoken. But when Monge translated the information into Spanish, hands shot up as polite listeners became engaged learners.

Out on the snowshoe trail, a boy who had recently moved to Washington from Mexico hung back to hear Fraser when the biologist began translating. The boy remained close to Fraser the entire walk, looking up at him with wide-eyed admiration. Seeing a person in an agency uniform speaking fluent Spanish clearly made an impression the student won’t soon forget.

“From a teacher’s perspective, we did not see any area of weakness,” said Tracie Sleeper, an educator at Lewis and Clark Elementary. “How engaged the instructors and students all were! They did an amazing job holding the students’ attention and keeping them motivated to learn. The organizations were awesome, and we would be honored to do it again. All 10s, in our opinion.”

Pinnix credited their partners and Lodwick for their hard work, saying the program wouldn’t have happened without them. “We’ve been working to build our relationships with partners, and this kind of event is the payoff,” Pinnix said. “Everybody wins.”

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