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Jason Ohrt, South Winneshiek Schools, and Shane Blake, Davis County Schools, are recipients of the 2023 Brass Bluegill award from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fish Iowa! program.
Ohrt has been involved with Fish Iowa! for more than 15 years. As an avid angler, he shares his own love of fishing and helps students build lifelong skills that improve their health and wellness. Ohrt’s principal shares that, “Mr. Ohrt teaches the right way for youth to interact with our environment while providing unique opportunities that not all students would have access to outside of school.”
Blake got involved in teaching outdoor skills to connect students with the outdoors and build community in 2021. He shares that he teaches the concepts of Fish Iowa! “to address the mental, physical, and social side of student health.” Blake uses Fish Iowa! to teach lessons of humility, passion, unity, servanthood, thankfulness, and accountability in his Outdoor Physical Education program. He adds, “It has helped strengthen my love of teaching, and the outcomes [of the program] have been so powerful in helping Davis County students develop healthier habits”
In areas of the state with ample opportunity for outdoor recreation, Ohrt and Blake both note that their programs often provide introductory experiences for students. Ohrt shares, “We also have several students who only get exposed to these types of activities through my class/unit.” Blake says he has noticed a “ broken bond between our youth and nature,” which was a driving force for developing his outdoor class. Connecting youth with their local natural resources is a core value for both efforts.
Both recipients have built strong support for fishing, and outdoor education overall, in their schools and their communities. They work with local agencies, organizations and businesses to access equipment, local resources, and funds for supplies. They also share that other educators and their school administrators support their programs, which is critical to sustain such efforts.
The award, along with a set of fishing poles to use with their Fish Iowa! programs, was presented at the Natural Resources Commission Meeting on July 13. The Brass Bluegill award has been presented each year since 1996 to Fish Iowa! educators with outstanding local programs that exemplify the goals of the Fish Iowa! Angler Education program.