The Environmental Science Immersion Program (ESIP) is a new program for high school sophomores and juniors. The ESIP connects and immerses students from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds in a twelve-month exploration of northwoods ecosytems. Students participate in a sequence of after school classes and field based weekend trips that culminate in a three-week summer experience at Wolf Ridge where students explore freshwater and forest ecosystems, conduct scientific research, and discuss the ethical questions posed by the use and management of natural resources.
While at Wolf Ridge during the summer, students join a DNR fisheries specialist in surveying and aging fish in Sawmill Creek, assist with DNR forest inventories and conduct plant studies comparing species found in a newly-logged area with those in the surrounding ecosystem. Additionally, students have the opportunity to spend several days investigating the Poplar River- from its source to where it empties into Lake Superior. During a tour of the local taconite processing plant with environmental engineers they learn about local geology and mineral resources. Throughout the Wolf Ridge based experience, participants supplement their learning by reading influential works on ecology and the environment, and through continued discussions that explore the social and practical implications of natural resource management and how they effect communities.
Canoeing in the Boundary Waters and hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail for several days are key components of the ESIP experience. These vast outdoor classrooms provide opportunities to develop enduring senses of place and to bond with peers. One student noted that after a long day of paddling and portaging, she realized how much she could accomplish if she put her mind to it and worked with her community of wilderness travelers.
By the close of the Wolf Ridge summer program, each student creates a portfolio that includes scientific research papers, essays, and his/her personal reflections- both written and photographic- from a year of committed study and discovery. The students will take this compendium of experiences back to their home schools to share with faculty. After twelve months and 180 plus hours of instruction from licensed teaching staff, each student earns credit equal to one year of elective science course work from his/her participating high school. College credit can also be earned by older students.
About Wolf Ridge
Founded in 1971 Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center was the first environmental learning center in the nation to be accredited as a K-12 school and is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in environmental education. Each year, more than 15,000 children, teachers and parent chaperones travel to their 2,000-acre campus from more than 185 schools in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Wolf Ridge serves an additional 3,000 people annually through our broad spectrum of environmental and outdoor learning programs including summer camps for children ages 6 – 17, wilderness trips, Road Scholars and family camps.