Category Archives: youth

Fishing for cool learning — Aquatic Education Program puts kids in touch with salmon

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Lacey Mathes, from Soldotna Elementary School, concentrates on catching a fish during an ice-fishing event on Sport Lake, which took place Feb 17 and18 as part of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Aquatic Education Program.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Lacey Mathes, from Soldotna Elementary School, concentrates on catching a fish during an ice-fishing event on Sport Lake, which took place Feb 17 and18 as part of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Aquatic Education Program.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

The morning sun still hung low on the horizon, not yet giving off much warmth but casting an orange glow on the blue armor of ice still encasing the 70 acres of Sport Lake in Soldotna. In the 24-degree air, plumes of warm air swirled around the mass of excited kids, but their breath, visible as it was, didn’t hold their attention, even though, on occasion, excitement caused them to hold it entirely.

Clutched in their mitten-clad hands, tiny rods dropped lines beaded with ice into holes augured through the ice. In the water below, a small cocktail shrimp on a hook was bobbed just off the lake bottom. This stationary, repetitive, no-guarantees activity held the full attention of the students — all 750 of them from 19 schools and home-schooled programs.

The annual ice fishing event, held Feb. 17 and 18 this year, was part of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Aquatic Education Program. It also serves as a seasonal bookend to the much broader Salmon in the Classroom program, which began in the fall when these same kids stood streamside at the Anchor River to learn how the life of some salmon ends and begins for others.

“They learned about the salmon life cycle, spawning and were exposed to how we do egg takes. They then took those eggs back to their classrooms to watch and study them as they develop and grow,” said Jenny Cope, a fisheries biologist from the Soldotna Fish and Game office.

For the last month and a half, Cope has been visiting participating schools and conducting salmon dissections to continue with the ichthyological education.

“This teaches them about the anatomy of fish and the different functions of their organs,” she said.

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Filed under ecology, editorial, schools, youth

Youth rowing makes a splash — Mackey Challenge builds teen skills

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Teams Four Oars and Rocky Rowers race in the Mackey Challenge youth rowing event put on by the Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association in Soldotna on Aug. 22.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Teams Four Oars and Rocky Rowers race in the Mackey Challenge youth rowing event put on by the Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association in Soldotna on Aug. 22.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Considering the logistical challenges to getting all her ducks in a row for the Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association to hold its first-ever youth event Aug. 22, Coach Nancy Saylor said that, all in all, the event went swimmingly.

“It’s gone pretty well like we planned it. I like to plan and then just let it go and see what happens and it usually works out pretty well,” Saylor said.

Saylor said she’s wanted to do a youth event for years. The Soldotna team currently only has a few youth members — more are always welcome — and it’s nice to give them a chance to participate with their peers. In rowing, it isn’t always feasible to field a whole team to travel to a race event, especially in Alaska where the season is short and participation isn’t huge. So rowers go as individuals and form teams with whoever else is looking to fill a boat.

“You get together with a group of people, you might not know everybody there but you can find ways to work together. So, to me, that’s what today is all about. I’m just really excited to have the kids here, they’re just a kick in the pants. Sometimes they’re just so funny, some of the things they do, and they’re willing to learn and try new things, so I really enjoy that part of it,” she said.

To further that goal of working together, Saylor mixed the eight Anchorage and four Soldotna teens up into three teams — the Rocky Rowers, Four Oars and Chocolate Milk. Yes, they picked their own names.

“Chocolate milk because we have chocolate milk here,” Saylor explained. “And one of the Anchorage teens was very impressed with that because there’s never chocolate milk at regattas so she was very excited, and so their team name is Chocolate Milk.”

The teams cycled through a series of stations. There was a safety relay, where they were timed in putting on a hat, glasses, whistle and lifejacket. They also rigged a bare boat to be ready for the water.

Alaska Midnight Sun volunteer Laurie Winslow helps team Chocolate Milk carry its boat to the water on Mackey Lake. Cooper Plumhoff, a senior in Anchorage, brought special footwear for the lake’s water launches.

Alaska Midnight Sun volunteer Laurie Winslow helps team Chocolate Milk carry its boat to the water on Mackey Lake. Cooper Plumhoff, a senior in Anchorage, brought special footwear for the lake’s water launches.

“Some of the kids here from Anchorage had never rigged anything before so a part of what I wanted to do here today is that everybody learn something and they all work together as a team,” Saylor said.

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A sweet taste of business — Youth squeeze benefits from Lemonade Day

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Spencer Kapp, left, and Quinn Lucas operate their Lemonade to your Aid stand on the Kenai Spur Highway in front of Jo-Ann Fabric in Soldotna on the Kenai Spur Highway. More than a dozen stands popped up in the Kenai-Soldotna area on Lemonade Day in Alaska, a program that teaches kids about business.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Spencer Kapp, left, and Quinn Lucas operate their Lemonade to your Aid stand on the Kenai Spur Highway in front of Jo-Ann Fabric in Soldotna on the Kenai Spur Highway. More than a dozen stands popped up in the Kenai-Soldotna area on Lemonade Day in Alaska, a program that teaches kids about business.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The sweet sound of commerce rang out across the central Kenai Peninsula and elsewhere in the state Saturday, otherwise known as Lemonade Day in Alaska, as kids learned the ins and outs of operating a business one cup of lemonade at a time.

“I usually ask if they want lemonade and then they will tell me what they want and I give them what they want and ask them, like, what kind, or how much ice they want, or if they want a lid or straw,” said Koen Pace, 9, who had a stand in front of Odie’s Deli in Soldotna.

Koen has wanted to participate in the program for a couple of years now, and his parents decided he was old enough this summer.

“He was very excited this morning,” said his mom, Kenya Pace. “It was like, ‘Are we ready to go yet? Are we ready to go yet?’ So he’s very excited. He seems to be doing pretty well, too.”

Kenya said the program has been a great way to introduce kids to principles of business.

“They had a class for them where the kids all came. Some people from the bank came and talked to them, and they explained to them about entrepreneurship and how to start a business and how to make money at it and how to market. Home Depot had it set up so he could build his stand there (with some help from Mom). So it’s just a fun thing to do,” she said. “I think going through the process of seeing how much it costs for supplies, how much to sell things for to make a profit off it, having people to support you. … I think it’s been a really great experience for him.”

One of the biggest lessons for Koen was location, location, location. He and his sister had previously tried to sell her duct tape creations in front of their house, but they live on a fairly quiet street. So he was appreciating all the traffic that came from being alongside the Sterling Highway in downtown Soldotna, especially on Kenai River Fest weekend.

“We’re doing really good. It’s a perfect place — the parking and the festival, right in between,” he said.

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Aiming for hunting experience — Alaska Outdoor Explorations is different class of learning

Photo courtesy of Jesse Bjorkman. Trevor Junkert, Zina Schwenke, Ashana Poage, Mike Hamrick, Justin Cox, Josiah Guenther and Rob Guenther work to skin and butcher a moose taken in December as part of an educational youth hunt. The field trip was a cooperative effort between the Nikiski Middle-Senior High School’s Alaska outdoor exploration class, parents and volunteers.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Bjorkman. Trevor Junkert, Zina Schwenke, Ashana Poage, Mike Hamrick, Justin Cox, Josiah Guenther and Rob Guenther work to skin and butcher a moose taken in December as part of an educational youth hunt. The field trip was a cooperative effort between the Nikiski Middle-Senior High School’s Alaska outdoor exploration class, parents and volunteers.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

The light snow sifting from the December sky made tracking easy. In the soft powder, the pie-plate-sized cloven hooves were a telltale sign a moose had recently passed through the area. The small group followed them to the source — a cow, perhaps 3 to 4 years old, in a stretch of woods off the Marathon Road Escape Route in Nikiski. Jesse Bjorkman chambered a .338 round into his bolt-action rifle, centered the crosshairs of his scope over the vital organs, then squeezed the trigger.

“It was an ethical, clean shot, through both lungs. The moose went about 25 yards then was down,” Bjorkman said.

His harvest — part of a permitted educational hunt — was not accomplished alone, though. Bjorkman was accompanied by several seventh- and eighth-grade students from the Alaska Outdoor Explorations class he teaches at Nikiski Middle/Senior High School, operated with the help of several volunteers, including Michael Hamrick, a hunting guide; Mark Burdick, with Safari Club International; Jerry Peterson, a hunter safety trainer with the state of Alaska; parents Rob Guenther, Reuben Junkert and Matt Scalise; and Alaska Department of Fish and Game area biologist Jeff Selinger and permitting biologist Cyndi Gardner.

The hunt was a culmination of several principles they’ve gone over for weeks.

“The class is very broad but ecology is a big part of it, so the kids had already learned about what moose do in the wild, how they act, their life cycle, how to tell a bull from a cow, things like that. Then, this hunt was kind of the proactive part of the class,” he said.

But even with all the classroom knowledge the students learned, they didn’t jump right from school to field. They also had to complete a hunter education course to participate, so they would be well versed in principles such as state rules and regulations, ethical shooting and hunting practices, and firearm safety.

“Still, the kids don’t get to pull the trigger,” Bjorkman said. “But they do get to direct all aspects of the hunt, from spotting with binoculars and tracking the animal, to determining the range to it, to making the decision on if I should take the shot or not.”

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Tradition’s center stage in holiday season plays — Triumvirate presents Christmas classics

Photos courtesy of Triumvirate Theatre. Ebenezer Scrooge (Allen Auxier) is led to some self-realization by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Terri Burdick) in Triumvirate Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Photos courtesy of Triumvirate Theatre. Ebenezer Scrooge (Allen Auxier) is led to some self-realization by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Terri Burdick) in Triumvirate Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

For the most part, holidays are celebrated through tradition. But nothing can stay the same forever.

Twinkling lights updated to LED bulbs. Family connections kept up through eCards and video calls. Turkey dinner made with maybe a little trans fat, but no less love.

This month Triumvirate Theatre serves up two helpings of traditional shows with a dash of newness for first-time audiences.

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” will be performed one more weekend, as dinner theater Dec. 19 and 20 and just the show Dec. 18. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” opens this weekend, Dec. 12 and 13, and will be performed again Dec. 26 and 27. Both are staged at Triumvirate North, five miles north of Kenai on the Kenai Spur Highway.

Both were chosen for their nostalgia factor.

“We’ve done ‘A Christmas Carol’ several times, but I’ve always wanted to do it in a bigger way, and our new theater provided the opportunity to do that,” said Joe Rizzo, who directs the play. “So ghosts could appear magically, and we could have more room to build a more impressive set — that type of thing.”

Dickens’ story, of businessman Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation into a more generous person through visitations by his old business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, was itself a mix of old and new at the time it was published, in 1843. Not only were Christmas trees and greeting cards new conventions, but the happy ending of Scrooge’s redemption helped restore some festivity and merriment to a season that had been marked by Victorian-era somberness. Yet the point of the tale — encouraging kindness and helping those less fortunate — was a reminder then as it still is now.

“I like the fact that the message, even though it was written over 150 years ago, is something that we still have around us today,” Rizzo said. “When Scrooge says, ‘Are there no prisons, and union workhouses,’ where people can go who are poor and destitute? We still hear those same types of things today — aren’t there food stamps, don’t my taxes go to pay for housing, why should I give to charity at this point? So I think the message is still very relevant, which is that everyone is part of the human race and we all have to help each other out.”

And yet, the play transforms a bit every time it’s performed.

“I think there’s always a different interpretation every time I’ve done this play. Even if I use the same script, actors bring a different interpretation to it,” he said.

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Happy hoopla — Elks Hoop Shoot offers 3-pointers to skills, confidence, success

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Delaney Smith, 8, of Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, prepares to throw a basketball during the Elks Hoop Shoot, held in the gymnasium of Soldotna Prep on Saturday. Smith won her age division and will move on to state-level competition.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Delaney Smith, 8, of Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, prepares to throw a basketball during the Elks Hoop Shoot, held in the gymnasium of Soldotna Prep on Saturday. Smith won her age division and will move on to state-level competition.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Delaney Smith, a petite 8-year-old with wire-rimmed glasses and blue nail polish standing easily a foot shorter than her competitors, looked more ready for a Battle of the Books than a battle on the court. It was a tall task for a small fry when she approached the foul line on the basketball court Saturday.

In the gymnasium of Soldotna Prep, dozens of kids ages 8 to 13 met to compete for the second tier of competition in the annual Elks Hoop Shoot Competition.

“She already won one,” said Delaney’s mother, Kim Smith, referring to the first tier of competition that took place at the school level, where Delaney was among the best of the best from Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School.

Despite her compact size, she took the ball — larger than her own head — with confidence. She dribbled a few times, then heaved the orange sphere skyward, shot-putting it more than shooting it. Then, a swish. She did this over and over again during the 25 shots she, and each contender, were allotted.

“She’s watched basketball since she was in a car seat. Her brothers and sisters and cousins all play, and she plays through the Boys and Girls Club, so she shoots every single day,” Kim Smith said.

There were plenty of kids there about whom the same could be said, though, so how did the pint-sized girl become enough of a powerhouse to win her age division Saturday and move on the next tier of state-level competition?

“I think a lot of her success comes from playing with the older kids. We’ve always left the basket high for them, so she’s really used to it,” Smith said. Continue reading

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Alcohol a tricky issue for area youth — Teen drinking subject of town hall discussion

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

The news of an incident is shocking — a teen assaulted at an underage drinking party. The assaults may range from embarrassing, such as a victim having their head or eyebrows shaved, to the devastating, such as with cases of sexual assaults. At least in the lesser events, adults might chalk it up to teens being teens. Some might read resulting headlines with a disapproving tsk-tsk and go on about their business, not to think of the issue again.

One local entity wants to do more.

“We have reasons to be alarmed, but there are things we can do in this community, as a community, to make positive changes,” said Stan Steadman, a member of People Promoting Wellness though Community Action.

The group held a town hall meeting Friday to discuss underage drinking, facilitated by the Roundtable Center for Mediation and Community Dialogue. The goal was to create a community dialogue to share information about how underage drinking affects local youth and the community as a whole, and to gather community input on what can be done to address this issue.

Steadman shared statistics compiled by the state’s Division of Behavioral Health. Kids who drank prior to age 13 had a 47 percent chance of becoming addicted to alcohol at some point in their lives.

While these numbers were shocking to those in attendance, Steve Atwater, superintendent for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, shared even more grim statistics that focused specifically on local numbers.

“I see a lot of data about our kids, and our kids are drinking more than the rest of Alaska, and that’s concerning. There are few incidents of alcohol in schools or kids drunk at school, but it is prevalent on weekends,” he said.

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