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Sense of Wonder Drives Fish & Wildlife Educator’s Passion for Stewardship

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specialist Cheri Anderson teaches a fish dissection lesson to Portland, Ore., elementary school students as part of the Salmon in the Classroom program she created nearly 20 years ago. (USFWS photo)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specialist Cheri Anderson teaches a fish dissection lesson to Portland, Ore., elementary school students as part of the Salmon in the Classroom program she created nearly 20 years ago. (USFWS photo)

White Salmon resident Cheri Anderson has been nominated by her peers to receive the national 2018 Sense of Wonder award from the Sense of Wonder Recognition Program.

“Fish and Wildlife Service employees who have created visionary programs to acquaint the public with stewardship of natural resources are eligible for nomination for this year’s “The Sense of Wonder” recognition program, according to the National Conservation Training Center.

According to her profile on the Fish and Wildlife Services website, Anderson has had a passion for wildlife conservation since she was in third grade. She was inspired by her grandfather, a big game biologist in Montana, and pursued a career in natural resources. However, Anderson was encouraged to pursue a degree in education instead of biology by a professor who told her that women couldn’t be park rangers.

After three years as a high school teacher, Anderson went back to school to get her degree in wildlife biology and found a job with the National Park Service in Mississippi where she discovered she loved interacting with and educating the people visiting the parks.

“I really love visitors,” said Anderson.

For the last 28 years, Anderson has worked at the Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery as an Information and Education Specialist. In 2017, Anderson placed 29 salmon tanks in classrooms all over Washington, Oregon, and parts of Idaho as part of the Salmon in the Classroom program that she created 20 years ago. The program teaches students how to track the life cycle of salmon.

Anderson is being nominated for this award for her innovative and creative approach to education and conservation. In addition to “Salmon in the Classroom” Anderson also turned the classic game of mini golf into a fun and educational way to learn about each stage of the salmon life cycle. In 2007, Anderson, as part of the Connecting People with Nature Initiative, created the school year habitat and garden at Hulan L. Whitson Elementary school.

This year, Anderson volunteered to pilot the Junior Ranger-Junior Angler Program developed by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service at the Columbia River Gorge National Fish Hatchery Complex.

Anderson has a long list of achievements and has worked with over 30 different organizations over the last 20 years to build and sustain educational and interpretive outreach programs in the Columbia River Gorge and beyond.

“I have worked with Cheri Anderson on a wide range of education projects over approximately 14 years. I continue to be impressed with all Cheri accomplishes in her position and can’t imagine what salmon and environmental education would look like in our area without her program. Cheri is busy with countless educational programs — running field trips and events at the hatchery, coordinating field trips to other sites, and providing classroom visits from Skamania to Goldendale to Trout Lake and beyond. She runs her programs with the highest level of professionalism. If Cheri is involved, we know the education project is going to be smooth, well organized, carefully coordinated with any other partners, and planned to skillfully bring age-appropriate content to the audience. One of Cheri’s strengths is her ability to develop relationships with teachers and schools, so programs can sustain and grow over time. Most importantly, Cheri makes the content fun and engaging, as she finds ways to support teachers in getting their students involved in rearing salmon in their classroom, salmon releases, and activities to understand salmon life cycle, habitat, the role of hatcheries and humans, and so much more,” said Margaret Neuman, executive director of the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, in a letter of support for the nomination.

“But the biggest impacts of Anderson’s work are the legacy of tens of thousands of youth and adults that, over the last 20 years, have learned about the importance and value of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program, and the National Fish Hatchery System. Under Anderson’s leadership, the National Fish Hatcheries in the Columbia River Gorge are not only places that raise more than 22 million salmon a year, they are community spaces where people connect to nature, whether it’s through catching a fish, seeing—or helping with — salmon spawning — or learning about the value of clean water and healthy habitats for fish and people. People of all ages have learned from Anderson what our National Fish Hatchery System does, locally and nationally, yet they also learn about the value of stewardship and the natural resources of their area, particularly the ecological, cultural, and economic value of salmon, clean, cold, connected water, and river systems. And in doing so, they become better connected with the wildlife and wild places that define the place we call the Pacific Northwest, “ said Anderson’s peers in their letter of support.


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