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I GO gets kids outdoors

Fifth-grader Max Damman casts his line at Wells Creek Wednesday. Damman chose to do trout fishing as part of the ELC's I GO program. -- Photo by Sarah Gorvin/Republican Eagle1 / 3
Fifth-grader Grace Slagle looks at a photo she took at Frontenac State Park Wednesday. -- Photo by Sarah Gorvin/Republican Eagle2 / 3
I GO program instructor Scott Roth helps Twin Bluff Middle School student Kyli Nelson take a photo of an overlook at Frontenac State Park Wednesday. -- Photo by Sarah Gorvin/Republican Eagle3 / 3

It's called Intro to the Great Outdoors. And the goal is do just that: introduce kids to nature and the different activities that they can do in it.

"It's a great opportunity to get them out and show them what they can do in our local environment," said Jason Jech, executive director of the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center, which hosts I GO.

The program takes small groups of fifth-grade students from Twin Bluff Middle School for a day outdoors. This year, students could choose to do trout fishing, outdoor photography, kayaking on the Mississippi River, spelunking, horseback riding, canoeing and rock climbing.

On Wednesday morning, a group of students cast lines into Wells Creek near Frontenac. For many of the half-dozen students on the creek's bank, this was the first time that they had been fishing.

"They're very enthusiastic," said Steve Nelson, the boys' fishing instructor.

Nelson said he spent Wednesday morning teaching the students how to cast and about lures and other fishing equipment.

"We talked about what makes a stream a trout fishing stream," Nelson said.

Then, Dan Dieterman of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources explained to the students about keeping the stream and its surrounding banks healthy.

"It's just getting out into the outdoors and learning to appreciate an environment like this, to foster an interest and caring and responsibility to maintain and keep it healthy. And to catch a fish," Dieterman said.

Just a few miles away in Frontenac State Park, Scott Roth instructed a group of students about taking nature photos. He began by explaining how the camera's lens, shutter and aperture work together to take a photo.

"If you really want to take good pictures of nature, you should really have control of all those things," he told the group.

The students each got a digital camera to use and were tasked with shooting photos of trees, landscapes and birds.

"I thought it would be fun to see the little things," fifth-grader Anela Buck said of nature photography. "It's fun to look at them while you're exploring."

"I think it's calming and relaxing," added Caitlynn Selbitschka.

Many of the students in that group had never been to Frontenac State Park before, but said that they would like to return.

"It would be cool to put it on a postcard," Buck said. "It's very pretty."

"I think it's really pretty, and it's a nice day to come out here and look at things," fifth-grader Tristyn Schroeder said.

The I GO program is designed to incorporate Minnesota state graduation standards into the activities. Before the students are taken outdoors, Jech said teachers spend some time working with them in the classroom as well.

"It's a great blend of the school and the ELC working together," he said. "The teachers have been very supportive."

Students from four of the middle school's eight fifth-grade sections got to participate in the program last week. The other four sections will go this coming week.

So far, Jech said the programs have been going well and the students are enjoying themselves.

"I got a note from one of the parents saying 'My son had an amazing time and wouldn't stop talking about it,'" Jech said.

The program is made possible through grants from the Red Wing Public Schools Foundation, Red Wing Shoe Co., the Jones Family Foundation and the Xcel Energy Foundation.

This is the second year that the ELC has hosted the program. Jech said he plans to bring it back next year as well.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.
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