Outreach Highlight – Cole and Lillian at the Stoneboro Fair

The following article was written by Cole D. and Lillian D. Lillian is a Bass alum, and Cole is a 2022 Gobblers alum, who returned to field school this past summer as a Youth Mentor for Bass. They share the story of their most recent outreach project – hosting a table at the Stoneboro Fair. 

After the 2022 Gobblers field school, Cole made contact with the President of the Mercer County Federation of Sportsmans Club at the Stoneboro Fair. They discussed the possibility of working together in the future. After 2023 WLA Bass Field School, Cole called him about Lillian and Cole setting up a table in the Wildlife Building at the Stoneboro Fair. Cole and Lillian were invited to a board meeting to discuss this with the rest of the club members. They attended the meeting, described what WLA is, what they wanted to do at the fair, how it would help their club, the fair, their outreach, and discussed any concerns. By the end of the meeting, Cole and Lillian were approved to man a table at the fair.

Cole and Lillian started preparing for this outreach project by making a WLA Trifold, contacting Katie Cassidy to borrow a tablecloth and obtain some give away items, creating rock paperweights, collecting field school information and making copies (i.e. macroinvertebrate worksheet, bass dissection illustration, PA Watershed diagram, certificate of WLA field school completion, PA Constitution, WLA marketing flyers, and more). They also figured out how to have a TV run a loop of the 2023 PA Bass Field School Highlight videos.

Traditionally, their family only attends the fair for one evening. This year, Cole and Lillian were at the fair for five days. Lillian and Cole prepared some ideas about how to greet passers and draw them into the display. These ranged from “Have you ever heard of the Wildlife Leadership Academy” to “This is a wildlife field school I attended” to “Would you like a fish or turtle tattoo” to “Do you love the outdoors?” They had some easy and some difficult conservations but their speaking skills greatly improved throughout the week. They learned how to read people’s interest through body language and observation of age, line of vision, and gaze. It helped that the Mercer County Federation of Sportsmans Club hung a taxidermy large mouth bass and a small mouth bass near their table. They set up a “name the animal” game, which included the identification of a bass. Many passers stopped at Lillian and Cole’s table to play the game and that gave an opportunity for further discussion.

There were many locals attending the Stoneboro Fair. Some traveled from farther away. One family was from Germany! Many people have never heard of the Wildlife Leadership Academy and were pleased to know it is statewide. Cole and Lillian spoke to many teachers who took papers to refer their students, as well as parents and relatives who took papers to refer their loved ones. Many outdoorsmen, enthusiasts, and hobbyists took information to possibly be an instructor or Adult Mentor at field school.

People liked to look at the watershed diagram and point to their home or camp location and describe the water or dry conditions. This put the field school lessons into perspective with real life testimonials. The most interest was in the macroinvertebrate worksheet. Parents wanted to get their elementary students involved with this. Adults wanted to test the water running through their property. Every day they had to replenish their handouts.

Lillian’s discussion of Bass Field School included dissection – which usually got a giggles as it was Lillian’s least favorite part. This opened the door to discuss other aspects such as nature journaling and photography which were Lillian’s favorite at field school. Cole spoke about WLA as a leadership tool since he attended Gobblers last year as a student, then Bass as a Youth Mentor, and this usually lead to discussions about further education, college and employment. Several people thanked them for information and complimented their presentation skills.

This outreach project wasn’t easy. It took a lot of preparation, time in a hot building, and required hours upon hours of attention to surroundings. However, Cole and Lillian found it rewarding to share their stories and connect with the public. At the end of the week, the Mercer County Federation of Sportsmans Club invited Cole and Lillian back to continue this project next year.

This project was only the beginning for Cole and Lillian, and we are excited to see where their outreach takes them next!

The photos used in this blog belong to Cole D. and Lillian D.