AWLS Experience Resonates for 5th Grade Teacher

A letter of thank you from recent AWLS participant Dave Fugate, 5th Grade Science Teacher Cherokee Elementary Lakota Local School.

Dear Jim Hayes and Southwest Ohio Safari Club International Donors and Members,

I would like to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to attend the American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS), in the beautiful state of Wyoming.  As a 5th grade science teacher, one of the 3 main units taught is based on life science.  This unit delves into the biodiversity of the world, but more deeply into that of North America.  A considerable amount of time also deals with conservation, which was a major component of AWLS.

While at AWLS, I was given instruction in the amazing program known as Project Wild. This program teaches students the value of biodiversity and conservation. As a class, we experienced the game “Oh Deer.”  As a mid-westerner, white tail deer are animals that are easily identifiable by our students and they know that the population of these deer are a problem. “Oh Deer” teaches the students about the delicate balance of food, water and shelter in keeping a healthy population. Within this game, we are also able to introduce the need for human intervention in maintaining a healthy population. Engaging students in these types of activities gives them the opportunity to see, in a hands-on fashion, the importance of conservation, here close to home.

Another eye-opening experience at AWLS was this idea surrounding conservation. I am not a hunter. It is just not something that I am interested in doing. But I do understand the importance of hunting. In Wyoming, it was apparent that hunting takes on a big role in the lives of those who live there. What amazed me, through the lessons taught at AWLS, was all that a hunter has to go through in order to get the opportunity harvest an animal. In my mind, I always thought you got a license and you go hunt. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Hunters are limited to a bag/tag limit and to a specific location and a specific time. I was also amazed at how involved the game wardens are in this process as well. One lesson focused on difficult moral situations that could take place while hunting and I was impressed with how the staff wanted to impress upon us that hunters are their own best advocates and that following the rules keeps hunting viable. Although I will not become a hunter, I better understand the need for hunting and that hunters have the idea of conservation in their mind. I also understand that those who hunt are equally, if not more so angered by those who do not follow the rules. Thank you, AWLS, for opening my eyes to this idea that hunters play an important role in conservation.

This opportunity to attend AWLS gave me an introduction to firearms, namely target shooting and skeet shooting. The staff at AWLS gave each of us an opportunity to learn proper and safe handling of guns and how these activities can be fun and informative. Since returning home, I have gone skeet shooting again at a local sportsman’s club. I am now in the market for a gun that I can use in this manner in the future. Prior to attending the American Wilderness Leadership School, I had no desire to use, much less own a gun.

In closing, the scholarship that the Southwest Ohio Safari Club International gave to me and many others in our area was an amazing gift. We were given the opportunity to learn about wildlife and conservation in Wyoming, a much different area than here in Ohio. These lessons will be used to guide and teach my students about the importance of conservation and the role hunters play in controlling and maintaining healthy habitats. It is my sincere hope that more educators will be able to take advantage of this opportunity in the future.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Dave Fugate

5th Grade Science Teacher Cherokee Elementary Lakota Local School