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Service Learning and Steelheading

Outdoor Studies course began with four intensive three-and-a-half-hour meetings spread out over the spring semester; then Maier's eight students packed their gear, along with their newly honed teaching and fishing skills, and flew to Yakutat.

UAS Assistant Professor of English Kevin Maier concluded a 2-credit special topics course designed to allow students to carry out a service learning project in the Yakutat School District, while also learning a bit about the distinctly Northwest tradition of steelhead fly fishing.  Entitled "Fly Fishing II: Service Learning and Steelheading," this Outdoor Studies course began with four intensive three-and-a-half-hour meetings spread out over the spring semester; then Maier's eight students packed their gear, along with their newly honed teaching and fishing skills, and flew to Yakutat.  With support from the Yakutat School District, the United States Forest Service, the UAS Admissions Office, the UAS School of Arts and Sciences, and Alaska Fly Fishing Goods, the group spent the week after final exams teaching 7-11th graders outdoor safety, fishing skills, and natural history during the school day—then rushed to the river to pursue the massive run of steelhead on the world-famous Situk River in the evenings.

Fly tying lessonThe students designed their experiential pedagogy, gathered materials, and thought carefully about how to engage the secondary students in Yakutat. Additionally, each preparatory course session featured a substantial discussion of readings about steelhead life history, fishing tactics, and the lore surrounding these storied gamefish. Finally, with guidance from Maier, the group planned all the logistics (travel and food in particular), ensuring a safe and comfortable trip.

Highlights of the week in the classroom included Geography major Tom Schwartz's backcountry travel essentials presentation, which included a hands-on experiment testing various fabrics for warmth retention. Biology major Nick Hajdukovich's excellent lecture on identifying birds common to Yakutat was also a hit. Hajdukovich's Powerpoint, illustrated with his excellent photographs, was followed by a session exploring various techniques for calling birds in for closer looks; Yakutat students could be seen all week cupping their hands together to hoot like owls. Maier and his students also participated in three separate panels about college preparedness, helped teach the Hunter Safety, guided sixth graders on an all-day kayaking trip, and worked with Yakutat School district staff to ensure everyone had a safe and educational week. The fishing, meanwhile, was indeed world class. Everyone hooked multiple steelhead, the wildlife viewing was unparalleled, and the sun broke through for a few glorious days in the usually drizzle temperate rain forest near Yakutat.

 
 

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