Tag Archives: youth

Casting for memories

In honor of Father’s Day, we asked four-time father and retired Fish and Wildlife Service refuge manager Don Hultman to reflect on what fishing has meant to him and his kids. His response may motivate you to grab a pole.

June is known for many things: the beginning of summer, the end of school, Father’s Day, and often, good fishing. As Father’s Day approaches, my thoughts turn naturally to my kids, and my father. My dad taught me to fish at a young age. From his teaching, I developed a skill that turned into a passion that I’ve shared with my own children.

The oft-heard quote “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” is certainly true in my case. Of course, I don’t catch or keep enough fish for my daily bread, but fishing feeds my spirit to this day. It also helps me remember the valuable life-skills of patience, perseverance, and humility.

I have passed on my angling knowledge and passion to my children. My first clutch is long-fledged at ages 37, 35, and 33. I was blessed with another child who will turn 9 this summer. Their ages and circumstances could not be more different, yet over time and distance they share a common bond: they have all fished, and learned to fish, with me, their dad.

I took my kids fishing when they were barely able to walk. Sometimes they were engaged in fishing; sometimes they got bored; and sometimes they were just happy to play with ropes over the side of the boat or minnows in the bucket. But we were together, and we were making memories and creating family stories.

Fishing involves what psychologists call “intermittent reinforcement,” which is perhaps the strongest type of motivation. Intermittent reinforcement means that the rewards of some repeated activity happen in a random, irregular way.

One day when fishing you may catch many keepers or a trophy fish. Then you may fish for days without repeating the experience. The reward is thus intermittent. It is one reason (although not often admitted) why anglers angle, hunters hunt, and gamblers gamble.

Of course there are many other “rewards” from fishing or other outdoor activities that are quite regular in nature: fresh air, beautiful scenery, mental and physical challenges, wildlife seen and heard, and the camaraderie of family or friends. I can depend on enjoying one or more of these every trip, and they are motivation enough to get outside.

With my father and my children, I caught lots of fish at times, and sometimes none at all. Each experience was different, and most have been forgotten under the layers of life and time. But there were those other times, the “ooh, I got one” moments, when the rare and unusual made for memories that last across generations.

When my family gathers, we enjoy sharing stories, those invisible threads that weave the fabric of family. And often, fishing and other outdoor adventures form the basis for those stories. We remember, we smile, we laugh, and we bond anew.

It is June again. Go fishing or do something else outdoors with your kids, your father, a loved one, or yourself. You just never know what will happen, and what memory you will catch.

To learn about fishing opportunities in your state, visit www.fws.gov/fishing.

An Artistic Twist on Conservation

Art classes at Yarmouth High School in Maine are channeling their creativity in a new direction.  Students, led by internationally known artist Tim Christensen and Yarmouth High School Art Teacher Holly Houston, are creating clay masterpieces to showcase endangered wildlife from across the globe. The results are stunning and serve as an artistic display of the beauty in nature we strive to protect every day.

Students researched threatened and endangered critters to best convey their subjects through art. The students used clay to create sculptures, pots and tiles and later incorporated food and habitat needs and animal adaptations into their artwork using sgraffito, a carving technique. The contrast of light carvings on the dark surface draws the eye to every detail.

Each student approached the the assignment in a creative way to raise awareness for the species of their choosing. Not only did they develop new techniques for clay, but they learned how to share meaningful conservation messages through art.

Alex’s inspiration was the New England cottontail. “I was concerned with the endangered animals that live near and around me. This animal is found in young forest habitats which are depleted in this area and more habitat is needed to help it recover.”

Kelcie chose the piping plover as her focal species. “I chose the piping plover because it is an animal I am familiar with but did not know it was endangered before I started this project. The piping plover is found along the Atlantic Coast, including Maine. If you’ve been to the beach you have probably seen these birds before. They enjoy nesting on the beach near the dunes and forage for food near the waves. Unfortunately our presence of the beach has disrupted their habitat. In order for them to repopulate we need to give them space to breed and live.”

Daly describes how she planned to convey what she researched about the roseate tern through her work. “The viewer would be able to see where the roseate tern lived and what it ate, as well as their flight patterns. My primary goal with this piece was to convey this animal in the middle of an action, such as fishing or flying. The tern at the top was placed there in order to show how the Tern glided through the air, which would give the viewer clues about what kind of bird it was. The central tern was placed in order to show it capturing its food, something that also provides important information about this animal to the viewer.”

Many students had similar accounts; drawing attention to wildlife that need it most. Their work shows many species that are protected in many different ecosystems across the globe. For many species, work has been done to protect both wildlife and their habitat but much more is needed to ensure their survival. Click here to learn more about endangered species and how you can help!


Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Makes Way for Pollinators in Yonkers, NY

On a clear fall day in early November, staff from Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge and Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge gathered to celebrate the opening of a pollinator garden at Yonkers’ School 13, a pre-K to 8 school in south Yonkers. The garden was created with the support of funding from the National Conservation Training Center, expertise from refuge staff, and was built by the Groundwork Hudson Valley’s Yonkers Urban Rangers, high school students who are paid to work on conservation projects throughout the year. The effort is another component of the Yonkers Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, which was established in 2014.


On November 1, students, administrators, Groundwork board members and staff, and USFWS staff celebrated the opening of Yonkers’ first schoolyard pollinator garden, made possible by the support of NCTC and the USFWS. – Photo Credit: Marilyn Kitchell

For at least 7 years, School 13 and Groundwork-Hudson Valley together have had the idea of establishing a garden outside the school’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) classroom. The entire school property is paved and surrounded by fencing, leaving little room for nature-based discovery at school. With the establishment of the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and the collaboration of Groundwork and Service partners, identifying a source of funding for the pollinator garden became a high priority. That funding was secured in 2015, with support from the National Conservation Training Center’s Division of Education and Outreach. The newly built pollinator garden also comes with a curriculum support binder to help the teachers utilize the garden in their lesson planning, and Groundwork support to help implement those lessons in the classroom.

The garden features plants chosen to represent four habitat types – wetlands, meadows, forest understories, and grasslands. Blooming in either spring or fall, the chosen plantings should provide habitat for butterflies, bees, and wasps (dare we hope for a hummingbird?!) in a part of Yonkers dominated by impervious surfaces. Acting as a bridge to the natural world, the pollinator garden features a 19-foot long backdrop mural of the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, helping the students to feel more connected to wild places. In future years, student-led tending and planting will help the garden to grow in species diversity and value. The garden’s creation should prove to be a valuable asset not just for pollinators, but for the students, teachers, and the community, helping all to appreciate the value of the outdoors. With the spring 2017 groundbreaking of a rails-to-trails project just one block from the school, the pollinator garden may become the first in a series of accessible nature-labs available to these Yonkers youth.

 Monarch butterflies are a stark contrast against the urban environment seen outside all the other school windows. The school's STEAM classroom (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) has the best view of all! - Photo Credit: Michael Horne

Monarch butterflies are a stark contrast against the urban environment seen outside all the other school windows. The school’s STEAM classroom (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) has the best view of all! – Photo Credit: Michael Horne