April 10, 2015
Contact: Elizabeth Manning
ADFG, Education Associate
Phone: (907) 742-4158
USFS, Wildlife Biologist
Phone: (907) 754-2322
The following news release is shared on behalf of the Division of Wildlife Conservation and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
(Girdwood) – The Girdwood K-8 School is the first recipient of a new award recognizing community members for positive contributions toward minimizing conflicts between humans and bears.
The Anchorage Bear Committee (ABC) will present the “Bear Stewardship Award” to Girdwood teachers and students Friday morning, April 10, at school and again Friday night at a “Bear Movie Night” at the Girdwood Community Center.
“We can’t think of a more deserving group for our first award,” said Elizabeth Manning, an ABC member and education specialist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Girdwood School teachers have not only taught students about bear awareness, but also challenged them to become community leaders who have inspired others to learn about bears and to live and recreate responsibly in bear country.”
The Girdwood School’s efforts began four years ago after two teachers, Joslyn Stinson and Christi Davidson, participated in a professional development workshop, iTREC!, Iditarod Trail to Every Classroom, hosted by the U.S. Forest Service focused on place-based service learning, an educational approach in which students work together to solve real-life problems within their communities. The Girdwood project has since become a model for this educational approach, and one that the Anchorage Bear Committee hopes will spread to other schools.
The school has created and recorded skits and public service announcements reminding residents to keep attractants out of reach of bears, and to recreate responsibly in bear country by making noise and traveling in groups. The school, along with agency and community partners has formed Wild& Aware Girdwood, a group focused on minimizing human-bear conflicts in Girdwood. Partners include the Girdwood School, the U.S. Forest Service, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and the Anchorage Bear Committee. Jessica Ilse, U.S. Forest Service, said “It has been a delight to work with teachers with so much passion and willingness to put in extra hours and days so their students learn how make a positive difference to make our community safer for humans and bears alike.”
The Girdwood School has educated students and their community about bears by hosting with Wild & Aware Girdwood four annual “Wild & Aware” weeks in the spring as well as a summer booth at Girdwood’s annual Forest Fair. In addition, student artwork has been on public display in Girdwood and Anchorage, and has been used to help create educational materials such as door hangers handed out by students to neighbors to remind them to pick up bear attractants in spring. Student radio PSAs have played during the summer on the local radio station, KEUL.
Wild & Aware Week this year is April 6-12. Visit wildaware.org for information and a schedule.
The ABC was established by the Department of Fish and Game in 2001 to help minimize conflicts between humans and bears in the Municipality of Anchorage. A special subcommittee was created in 1998 to coordinate education efforts and the Bear Stewardship Award was the idea of that subcommittee.
PHOTO: Girdwood K-8 School Teachers Joslyn Stinson and Christi Davidson. Photo provided by Jessica Ilse, US Forest Service Wildlife Biologist.