Student helps bring a Wisconsin outdoor tradition to Latino youth

September 16th 2011
Giving, Students
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Story by Holly Hartung, College of Letters & Science

Little compares to grilling brats in the summer for Wisconsinites. Unless, of course, you're preparing fish caught in Wisconsin waters.

[caption id="attachment_7067" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="UW-Madison senior Jannet Arenas with a student on a Wisconsin DNR Fishing Club field trip."][/caption]Thanks to the initiative of UW-Madison student Jannet Arenas along with help from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), a new generation of youngsters is partaking in one of Wisconsin’s time-honored outdoor traditions.

As part of her Service Learning Environmental Studies directed study course this summer, Arenas worked with the DNR and Centro Hispano of Dane County—a non-profit that serves the Latino community—to create a new club to introduce Madison youth to the joys of fishing and to instill stewardship for the environment.

Before diving into the hands-on portion of her 12-week directed study course, Arenas read texts to prepare her for the challenges facing Hispanic youth and wrote reflection journals which she shared in weekly meetings with Tess Arenas, the director of the Office of Service Learning and Community Based Outreach in the College of Letters & Science, and of no relation.

Jannet then translated her findings into a fun opportunity for kids.

"Learning to fish is a memorable experience, and for many it was an experience that they would not have been exposed to otherwise," said Jannet, a senior majoring in social work with a certificate in environmental studies.

Jannet worked with her instructor Tess Arenas, to design a culturally specific curriculum for fishing club students.  The curriculum involved hands-on activities ranging from arts and games, to fishing trips.

In one lesson, the students learned the importance of responsible fishing.

[caption id="attachment_7069" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Mario Sierra, Assistant Director of Centro Hispano, helps a student out with a fish during one of their Fishing Club trips."][/caption]

“When a 9-year-old boy caught a fish, he yelled for the ‘measuring crew,’ who quickly ran over with tape measures to ensure the fish was a keeper. I was so nervous the kids would have to return the fish and was relieved when it measured 9 inches,” said Tess Arenas.

In total, Jannet conducted two separate 4-week fishing clubs that included field trips to the Fish Hatchery and a chance for the young students to try their hand at the sport. The clubs fulfilled the required service-learning aspect of the directed study course.

Commenting on one of the trips, Tess Arenas said a total of five “keepers” made it into the Styrofoam cooler and that “very sensitive negotiations took place” to determine who would get to take them home.

Jannet's work with the fishing club also included university guest lectures and field trips to help instill the goal of post-secondary education in the students.

[caption id="attachment_7070" align="alignright" width="203" caption="Students fishing on their Fishing Club trip under the mentorship of UW-Madison student Jannet Arenas."][/caption]

Jannet attributes the fishing club's popularity to the culturally specific curriculum and the bilingual staff and materials she and Tess Arenas developed, including the translation of DNR instructional materials.

"All partners in this effort deemed the fishing club a success, especially for its first year," said Jannet.

Plans are underway for next year to expand the program to additional locations and to involve Hmong, Native American and African American youth.

Any students interested in forming their own program can contact Tess Arenas ( for more information.

Meghan Lepisto contributed to this article. Read more at the Nelson Institute...