American Wilderness Leadership School
Nestled in the beautiful Bridger-Teton National Forest near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Safari Club International Foundation’s (SCIF) American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS). Established in 1976, AWLS has provided an accredited wildlife management program for 5,473 teachers who reach more than a million students annually. Educators attending AWLS receive useful hands-on training and experience they can use in the classroom to teach their students about the positive role hunting plays in wildlife conservation.
In 2014 the Northwoods Chapter of SCI, along with the Hunters Legacy Fund of Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF), provided financial support for three Upper Peninsula teachers to attend the AWLS intensive 8-day workshop. The sponsorship included travel, lodging, and meals as well as conservation instruction. They received instruction in conservation science and the role of hunting in wildlife conservation, in addition to hands-on shooting instruction for rifle, shotgun, and bow. The instructional materials they received will allow them to bring back this information to their students.
Information regarding the AWLS program, and applications to attend a session, can be found at: www.safariclubfoundation.org/education/awls. Upper Peninsula educators wishing to attend AWLS may send their completed application to: Northwoods Chapter SCI, 235 Soderena Rd., Crystal Falls, MI 49920.
In July of 2009 the Northwoods Chapter of SCI provided financial support for 4 Upper Peninsula teachers to attend AWLS in Jackson, Wyoming. Clare and Becky Arbic (stories below) were 2 of these teachers. Both felt it was a life-changing experience and are eagerly using the knowledge and skills they received to pass along these lessons and enthusiasm to their students.
Clare Arbic—There were 28 teachers in our session with around 9 being from Michigan. The AWLS campus is in an absolute breathtaking location along Granite Creek. Our days were packed from around 6:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Actual classroom time included activities such as wildlife ecology and conservation lectures and walks, outdoor survival classes and labs, stream ecology lectures and lab time collecting and identifying bugs. Hands on activities included fly tying, fly casting, shooting safety and a full day of shooting sports including .22 cal pistols (revolvers, semi auto, and a single shot Thompson Contender), .22 rifles, .50 cal Thompson percussion muzzle loaders, 12 ga and 20 ga shotguns shooting trap, and lots of archery shooting as we were all trained and certified to be instructors for the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). Many of the participants had never shot a gun or a bow before. We also participated in some field trips including lectures from specialists with the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management ,Wyoming Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologists, and the National Elk Refuge personnel. We had lectures at Teton National Park regarding ecology and the history of the park and were also shown the antelope wintering grounds and migration routes.
The staff and instructors at AWLS were amazing; certainly all experts in their respective fields. We were given lots of useful tools for our classrooms. Throughout all of our activities the underlying theme was to bring all of our activities home and share them with our students. As teachers we have contact with hundreds if not thousands of students over the course of our careers. This presents us with the tremendous opportunity to inspire our students and instill a love of the outdoors, and an understanding of what being a good sportsman/sportswoman is all about.
I was very fortunate to have been able to attend AWLS with my wife. Since returning from AWLS my wife, at 32, has furthered her enthusiasm for the outdoors and bagged her first whitetail during the early antlerless hunt with her father in the blind with her. It’s never too late to start hunting!
Becky Arbic—This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a week at the AWLS in Jackson, WY. I have been around hunting my whole life but hadn’t hunted much myself. As part of the AWLS program I learned how to shoot safely several types of guns. After training with awesome instructors, I felt very confident that I could safely handle my own gun when hunting – something that made me nervous before. At AWLS I learned how hunting supports conservation efforts, this new knowledge along with my new confidence in my shooting gave me the push I needed to be serious about hunting. This fall I shot my first deer with my dad sitting next to me on the land I grew up on. It is a day I will always treasure. As I was getting ready to take my shot I could hear my instructors from AWLS, I am confident that my humane kill was due in large part to the fantastic instruction and great experience in Jackson. I am now a hunter thanks to Safari Club International, and I am anxious to inspire my students by sharing my experiences and the knowledge I received at AWLS. Thanks again for sending Clare and I to AWLS, it really did change our lives.