Steuben County is home to 101 lakes that serve as recreational, environmental, and diverse wildlife landscapes for a signification portion of the County’s population. From boaters, to anglers, to farmers, and even hunters there is a challenge to effectively share the natural resources our 101 lakes provide. As a result the Steuben County community will be better served through early education on the importance of conserving our valuable natural resources within the community.
Multiple community organizations with vested interest in our natural resources have partnered to offer youth conservation programming to Steuben County seventh grade students. Natural resources education through community partners serves as an opportunity to meet several Indiana Academic Standards for the seventh grade. Students participate in seven stations learning about water quality, waterfowl, trapping, and canines as tools in the natural environment.
Volunteers were recruited and facilities were secured for every station. Qualified presenters taught about natural resources using hands-on education. A written evaluation was administered at the close of the event to capture the knowledge gained, changes in attitude, and potential behavior changes.
Students from Hamilton, Fremont, and Angola totaled 322 youth who experienced Duck Days at the Trine State Recreation Area. Of the 299 student respondents resulting in a 93% response rate, 90% indicated their understanding of wildlife conservation practices increased as a result of Duck Days. 89% of the student respondents stated their attitude about wildlife conservation practices improved resulting in them seeing wildlife and natural resources in a new way by attending Duck Days.
Specific to each of the seven stations, 88% understood that a swamp is a central hub for wildlife in an ecosystem, and 85% learned that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service keeps track of birds using scientific tools for data reporting. 81% learned that hunters and sportsmen utilize dogs as tools to manage resources and limit the negative impact on the environment, and 80% of the student respondents recognized that humans have to manage lakes, rivers, wetlands, and the ecological balance of predators/prey since there are limited natural resources. 75% of the respondents recognized that wood duck boxes really can improve a community by providing a habitat which increases reproduction. 64% reported they can easily improve water quality in our community by encouraging their parents to use less fertilizers and pesticides at home, pick up trash to keep it out of the waterways, and to keep something living on the ground at all times. 57% recognized that trapping was historically viewed as injurious and torturous and is now viewed as a humane conservation practice. 40% recognized that the DNR trains dogs to track injured or lost game and to find poachers.
19 seventh grade teachers completed a teacher evaluation in which 100% of the teachers stated the Duck Day educational lessons met Indiana Academic Standards for 7th grade, school hours were well spent on the field trip, and their expectations were met. 95% indicated the field trip saved them time and energy in regards to lesson planning as they try to meet state standards. In response to the hands-on educational experiences, one teacher said, “Good quality material, engaging.”