Northeast Wisconsin Chapter

Where the Teachers are Students

American Wilderness Leadership School Experience
by Anne Warren, AWLS graduate 2009


In 1994, I attended the summer student session at the American Wilderness Leadership School. I was going into my sophomore year at Iowa State University, and a friend of my father’s recommended I go. He was a member of Safari Club and was enthusiastic about the program. He knew of my interest in all things outdoors, and that I was going to school for a wildlife degree, so I applied and was accepted. My first AWLS experience was, I believe, a pivotal moment in my young adulthood, and is an opportunity that helped guide my life path into my current career as an environmental educator.


This July I attended AWLS for the second time in my life, but as an adult professional educator and in a different capacity. I was still a student, but I and the other attendees were looking forward to learning about how to incorporate environmental/ outdoor education and conservation issues into school curriculum and public programs, and we would be given various environmental education resources to take back with us to enhance our school curriculum and programs. I also was looking forward to meeting other educators with an interest in environmental education, natural resources, and wildlife conservation. There would be a lot of “hands-on” training with firearms – shotgun and rifle – as well as an introduction and training in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), and an opportunity to go on several field trips during the week to various sites.


Introductions, name games, and an overview of SCI and the AWLS program were first on the extensive menu of programs for the week. This was followed by interesting and exciting activities held in the classroom and outside, on topics such as stream ecology, wildlife conservation & human impacts, resource management, hunting ethics & economics, resource management, outdoor survival, and ecology. In addition to the activities at Granite Creek Ranch, we also traveled to various sites and spoke with staff from the Wyoming Department of Fish & Game, BLM archeologists and range specialists, National Elk Refuge volunteers & staff, and US Fish & Wildlife biologists. A culminating activity was a rafting trip on the Snake River – awesome! – and we had the chance to experiment with some Project WILD activities, which we took home with us to incorporate into the classroom. A delicious barbeque and a campfire under the stars wrapped up the week, which is one I won’t soon forget. I met great people, the staff were wonderful, and just being there in the middle of one of the most scenic areas in the country was an experience of a lifetime – twice for me, in fact!


I think one of the most impacting moments for me at AWLS was the trip to the Pinedale oil and gas fields, because it really hit home how much humans impact natural habitats. I believe it is important for educators to really instill in students the importance of environmental responsibility and stewardship, as most people don’t really get to see an impact as pronounced as in Pinedale. Humans need those resources, and we all benefit from them, but at what expense do we obtain them? It is for this reason that I think that environmental education is such a vital part of our children’s upbringing in today’s society, and I think that AWLS is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to help “spread the word” to their students.


I would not have been able to experience AWLS without the support of the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of SCI and I want to thank all of you, and especially Cal Ort, for the privilege of your sponsorship. In my position as Education Specialist for Marinette County’s Land & Water Conservation Division, I present environmental education programs to over 4,000 people a year. I hope to incorporate much of my AWLS experience into my programs, and to help people better understand their environment and the responsibility we have in managing and conserving our natural resources properly. Thank you for this wonderful and unforgettable experience, and for belonging to an organization so dedicated to conservation and education.



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