Trout Unlimited is serving youth and volunteers in new ways to keep them engaged in our mission to protect, conserve, and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries during the pandemic. Some of our programs have been adapted to fit virtual and at-home formats to provide safe avenues of participation. Online platforms come with unique challenges but boast some exciting prospects. Here are examples of how we, the TU community, have continued our event-based work despite limitations faced during the pandemic.
Salmon and Trout in the Classroom
Webcams have been a tool in Salmon and Trout in the Classroom (S/TIC) Programs for many years. This year, however, they are a necessity as many students are taking classes from home. Several teachers have reported that S/TIC is a great distance-learning tool and plan to continue their program for the year.
A great example of webcam innovation comes from Maryland TU who is partnering with Irvine Nature Center in Baltimore County, Maryland. The nature center will provide a live stream of adult rainbow trout provided by MDTU. Once eggs are available in December, the webcam stream will follow their development as they hatch and grow to fingerlings in a 55-gallon aquarium. Irvine Nature Center has also committed to produce bi-weekly, pre-recorded lesson plans geared toward 4th through 8th grade students. TU National will host the Maryland webcam stream and lesson plans on the tu.org website.
Join the discussion on what other TIC programs are doing this year on the Leader’s Forum here.
Every person is a citizen of a watershed and STREAM Girls brings that idea in patch-form to Girl Scouts across the country. In order to serve girls in 2020, a blended format of virtual and self-guided lessons are being developed. Together, TU volunteers and staff will produce fun, instructional videos to guide the girls through the STREAM Girls Eight Core Activities. These videos – paired with material drop-offs, equipment rental and mentorship – will send Scouts off to explore their natural surroundings as a scientist, artist, and angler!
Youth Camps and the national TU Teen Summit
Over the summer, camp directors in Colorado got creative and administered five online camp sessions called TU Teens LIVE. The sessions were spread out over five weeks to serve the young people that had applied, pre-COVID, to attend in-person the Colorado River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp.
One thing that set their camp apart was a host of DIY activities that the teens were encouraged to do at home including: a trash pickup, macroinvertebrate sampling of a nearby stream, TikTok fishing challenge, and creation of a presentation called “Story of my Life” to share with the group as a get-to-know-you activity. These activities provided a space for young anglers to be a part of the TU Teens team, rather than just simply attending a lecture. All five of the sessions can be viewed on Colorado Trout Unlimited’s YouTube channel.
On the heels of Colorado TU’s efforts, Headwaters Youth Program staff developed a virtual experience for the national 2020 TU Teen Summit. So far, three sessions have been completed with a fourth and final session in the works. The first session was a social get-together with ice breakers, a simple show-and-tell, and an opportunity to learn more about the Teen Summit. The next two sessions were designed around a conservation tour of the Boardman-Ottaway River in Michigan where the removal of three dam, plus the construction of an engineering marvel called FishPass, will reconnect 160 miles of the river to Lake Michigan.
Presentations mixed with discussions and reflections kept the audience engaged. We also assigned pre-work for “extra credit” to provide participants with more context and connection to the presentation topics. For example, they were asked to watch two documentaries related and write a couple paragraphs of reflection. Each extra credit point they earned entered their name into a drawing for a bundle of prizes.
Lessons learned: Make online sessions as engaging as possible with icebreakers, chats, and discussion topics. Keep them as close to an hour as possible (this is a huge challenge with larger groups). Provide incentives for participation with a drawing for prizes. Encourage research prior to the sessions to provide context and fodder for conversation.
TU Teens Essay Contest
Tired of pushing screens? Any teen that cares about conservation can enter the TU Tenn Essay contest. This year’s topic is “describe the moment you felt a responsibility to become involved with conservation.” Winners receive prizes and top essay is published in Trout magazine. Find more information at www.tu.org/teen-essays. The deadline is October 31, 2020.
TU Costa 5 Rivers College Clubs
This Summer, TU Costa 5 Rivers launched its first ever “Fish Responsibly” digital fishing tournament to inspire the next generation to get out and fish during COVID. The tournament was a huge success, getting over 170 people out and fishing responsibly during these less than ideal times. The virtual tournament generated over $7,000 for the 5 Rivers Community Fund, a microgrant program that will allow qualified 5 Rivers clubs an opportunity to conduct on-the-ground restoration projects starting in early 2021.
Further digital engagement opportunities planned for club members this school year include an upcoming podcast “Emerging”, digital fishing tournaments, and more. Stay tuned to the 5 Rivers Instagram page (@tucosta5rivers) to stay up to date with our digital engagement opportunities.
How are you and your chapter engaging young people this year? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com