If you have a teen aged 14 to 17 who has an interest in wildlife or fisheries biology, I encourage you to send them to this field school.
Academy seeks youth leaders energized about wildlife conservation
The Wildlife Leadership Academy is now accepting applications from youth ages 14-17 from Pennsylvania for this year round program that focuses on wildlife conservation and leadership development. The mission of the Academy is to empower youth to become ambassadors for wildlife conservation in order to ensure a sustained wildlife legacy for future generations.
The Academy begins with an intensive, week-long field school experience that focuses on a fish or wildlife species as a springboard for exploring biology, habitat, and conservation issues. Youth also develop leadership skills by engaging in team-building activities, educational presentations, and mock “town hall” meetings.
Two field schools are available for youth to choose from: Pennsylvania Bucktails, which focuses on white-tailed deer, and Pennsylvania Brookies which focuses on brook trout and coldwater fisheries.
Prepared with the knowledge and the skills from the field school, students return to their home communities to complete conservation outreach that focuses on environmental education, community service, media engagement, and/or participation in the arts.
Student Brook Martin of York County describes his participation in the program as “life changing”.
He shared how his time with the program affected him. “At the field school, I was able to reach my full potential and find a career path that I feel will be very rewarding. It was an experience that I will cherish and remember the rest of my life,” he said.
A high quality experience
Led by the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education, the Wildlife Leadership Academy is a cooperative initiative and brings the experts to the students. Participants are taught by and interact with conservation professionals daily. These professionals represent agencies and leading organizations and universities from across the state.
Instructor and professional ecologist Lisa Smith commended the program.
“The high caliber and sheer number of conservation professionals who are involved as instructors in this program are beyond impressive, but more than that is the commitment of time, energy and passion that each of these instructors gives to the students,” Smith said.
Pennsylvania Brookies is a new addition to the Academy and will bring a fresh opportunity for youth to engage with fisheries experts, including those from Trout Unlimited. Rebecca Holler, Education Coordinator for Trout Unlimited Eastern Abandoned Mine Program, said Brookies will teach the youth a valuable lesson about how ecosystems function.
“Coldwater fisheries are the backbone of our environment. They provide the water source for most other ecosystems. Learning about them and what brook trout need teaches about the interconnectedness of life.”
Youth bring home these lessons
Students return to their community to share what they have learned. They also keep a record of their conservation outreach efforts. Top outreach achievements qualify students for educational field trips, opportunities to return to field school tuition-free as mentors, and college scholarships.
Molly Diefenbach of Centre County, a student at Pennsylvania Drummers, said the feeling she got from doing her outreach was not what she expected.
“I was surprised by how accomplished and proud I felt after completing each outreach activity – whether it was speaking to a crowd of 200 or finishing up another entry in my nature journal alone in the woods," she said.
Molly gave an educational presentation to the Conservation Officers of Pennsylvania Association (COPA) and also wrote an article for their magazine, The Greenline. Bernie Schmader, a member of COPA, was impressed by Molly.
“Her article and oral report reassures our members and others that there are intelligent, interested, dedicated and understanding young people who are preparing to step up and carry on in our efforts to promote and safeguard Pennsylvania’s precious fish, wildlife and other natural resources.”
Academy youth have taken the program’s mission to heart. To date, Academy graduates have conducted 522 conservation education, communication, and service projects; given more than 2,000 hours of work towards these efforts; and engaged over 10,000 Pennsylvania citizens across 44 counties in the state.
Academy Director Michele Kittell said the participants are “the next generation to speak for wildlife conservation."
"We hope the leadership of Academy youth in their home communities will inspire others to care more and therefore act more on behalf of the environment.” she said.
Applications for the 2012 field schools can be download at http://www.PICEweb.org
, click on the youth programs link. Application deadline is April 1, 2012. PA Bucktails will be held at Stone Valley Recreation Area in Huntingdon County June 19-23. PA Brookies will be held at Sieg Conference Center in Clinton County July 10-14.
Expert instructors at the field school include representatives from Audubon PA, Kutztown University, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania State University, Trout Unlimited, Quality Deer Management Association, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and many more.
For more information, contact Academy Director, Michele Kittell, at [email protected]
Editors Note: If you would like to interview a student about their experience, email Michele Kittell at [email protected]
, to be connected. Students from the following counties have participate in 2011-2012 program: Adams, Allegheny, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Clarion, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Elk, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, McKean, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Susquehanna, Warren, Washington, York. A video about the program can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEWTtof1XBo