WARROAD, Minn.-Students in teacher Lance Sage's social studies class at Warroad High School are getting an opportunity during this year's winter trimester to learn about potential outdoors careers.
The new elective, called Outdoor Careers Education, is shedding light on the fact that outdoor jobs come in many forms, said Sage, a Lake of the Woods fishing guide during the summer months whose family owns Sage's Angle West Resort on the Northwest Angle.
The class began in early December and wraps up March 4.
Initially, Sage said, school officials suggested a class that would focus exclusively on jobs such as guiding.
"I said let's make it a little bit greater scope and do an outdoor careers class in which we can throw in a lot of things," he said.
The list of presenters has included a federal trapper, fisheries biologist, conservation officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, sporting goods store owner, tourism official and even farmer, all of whom talked about their respective occupations.
Joe Henry of Lake of the Woods Tourism, for example, visited the class in early January and told the students he was a vacuum cleaner salesman before he began working as a promoter of Lake of the Woods.
Phil Talmage, area fisheries supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources in Baudette, Minn., talked about his career as a fisheries biologist and managing Lake of the Woods.
Farming might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering an "outdoors job," but few vocations involve more time outside. Warroad-area farmer Jade Estling talked about his career with the class.
"We've had a lot of presenters so far," Sage said.
At Sage's invitation, I had an opportunity to talk about my job as the Herald's outdoors editor on Monday morning. I put together a visual presentation telling the students about myself and how I became an outdoors writer.
The class flew by in what seemed like considerably less than 55 minutes, and the students asked some great questions about my job, how I go about choosing stories and some of the favorites I've written over the years.
Basically, I told them, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and working for a newspaper and a company that recognizes the importance of the outdoors to the lives of people who live and work in this part of the world.
That's certainly the case in Warroad, where the west shore of Lake of the Woods is just a few blocks east of the school and massive Beltrami Island State Forest is only a few miles south of town.
The outdoor opportunities, in other words, are vast, and most of the students hunt and fish, Sage said. The class includes students from grades 9 through 12, though most are juniors and seniors, he said.
At the start of the trimester, Sage says he had the students write a paper highlighting their outdoor interests and three jobs they'd be interested in learning about. Students wrote another paper on a particular career they'd like to pursue and how they'd go about achieving that.
The class is very "hands-on," Sage says, and students have been tested on skills such as knot-tying and earn points for classroom participation and asking questions of the presenters. Five seniors are planning to attend Vermilion Community College in Ely, Minn., a school known for its outdoors-related curriculum, Sage says.
There's a good chance some of those students will find an outdoor career of their own someday.
"There are some of the students that have worked maybe for a resort, something like that, but I don't think any of them have been exposed to the degree that we've done in here of enlightening them on what it would take to accomplish getting that job-or what's available out there, too," Sage said.