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Students prepare for life in the wild

More than 50 students at Barnum High School got a chance to learn about water quality and how to find one's way with a map and compass through a program that brought a bit of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to their school last month.

They were visited by Alison Nyenhuis, education director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting northeastern Minnesota's BWCAW and educating students about the area through its "No Boundaries to the Boundary Waters" school visits program.

Seventh- and eight- grade students participated in the "Topography and Trails: Map and Compass in the BWCA" class, and high school juniors and seniors participated in the "Clear, Deep Water: Water Quality and the BWCA" course.

Prior to the visit, both classes had a virtual visit the week before with Nyenhuis. Students learned more about the Boundary Waters and followed a "day in the life" of a BWCA traveler using the online introduction unit to get them ready for the in-person visit.

The students worked together to use a compass and navigate a course that had been set up in their schoolyard, and discussed the reasons why navigation is so important in wilderness areas, and particularly the BWCA.

Students in grades 11 and 12 explored the water quality of two sites at their school, and investigated how factors near the water affect different indicators of water quality, and how these factors play into water-rich environments such as the BWCA.

"It was a great day at Barnum High School. The students came with a lot of excitement and curiosity for the activities. I loved seeing the middle school students explore their schoolyard in a new way, and I was so impressed with the connections the high school students were making with water quality and how the nearby land affects it. They started to come up with some great solutions to protect their water," Nyenhuis said.

The No Boundaries to the Boundary Waters program works with schools across the state to deliver a Boundary Waters curriculum to students at no cost to schools. In addition, the No Boundaries program provides scholarship opportunities for students from diverse and underserved communities to go on weeklong Boundary Waters adventures.

Nyenhuis also teaches units on animal skull identification, Leave No Trace principles and more, as students get to experience hands-on elements of the Boundary Waters. In addition, she works with a network of experts to provide virtual presentations on climate change in the BWCA, fire ecology, BWCA history, and more.

Funding for the No Boundaries to the Boundary Waters program was provided by the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. For more information, visit http://www.friends-bwca.org/outdoor-education.

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