Maureen Stine, a longtime outdoor educator and owner of Natureology, will kick off The Outfitter’s 2014 Speaker Series on January 21, with an informational talk on the art of ice fishing. The Outfitter’s Speaker Series has become a winter/spring staple in the area. (Courtesy photo)
Tamara Stevens Special to Harbor Light
By Tamara Stevens, Special to Harbor Light Newspaper
Students are more open to learning when the teacher applies the lesson to a tangible, real
experience, according to professional environmental educator Maureen Stine. Taking the classroom outdoors is the first step toward making the lesson "real."
"Kids learn out-of-doors easier than in institutional manners of teaching," said Stine, owner and founder of Natureology, a business she created five years ago. "Kids are more inspired and more open to learning when it has to do with things outside and that they can relate to."
Stine's approach to multi-sensory nature exploration is interactive and dynamic. An environmental and recreation educator for 20 years with the Department of Natural Resources, Stine branched out on her own and now works with school groups, conservation districts, teachers looking for professional development training, and adults who are interested in the natural world.
The "living laboratory" of the natural world helps Stine "connect with students more profoundly," she said, where she uses the "language of the student" to share her passion for the natural world with students of all ages.
"Ice fishing is an amazing, beautiful and exciting way to pass these dreary months in northern Michigan," said Stine, who moved to the area about 11 years ago from Chicago.
"There is an art to dressing properly," she said. "There's an art to baiting your hook. The set up to ice fishing is fascinating. And there is nothing more thrilling than feeling the weight of a fish on your rod. There are a couple different disciplines in the one sport."
Stine loves to share her passion of fishing on ice with adults and children. She will be presenting "Winter Ecology and The Art of Ice Fishing" at the Outfitter in downtown Harbor Springs on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. as the first speaker of the year in the Outfitter's annual Speaker Series. Stine will unveil the woodland winter story and share best tips and tricks for ice fishing.
The Outfitter's Speakers Series began in 2010 and is an opportunity for people who share a common interest in the outdoors to get together and learn from each other, said Molly Ames Baker, who owns the Outfitter with her husband Josh.
"Our aim with the Speakers Series is to bring people together, to celebrate our local landscape, and to inspire everyday adventure," Ames Baker said. "We collaborate with and promote local organizations, businesses and folks who have a specialized interest in and/or expertise related to the outdoors."
Once a month for the next five months, the Outfitter will be inviting the community into the store in the evening to hear speakers discuss a wide range of topics, from ice fishing to tree diseases to stormwater runoff and rain gardens to sailing and fishing adventures. The Speaker Series is open to all ages and free of charge.
"We started it four years ago because it seemed like there was a need for something in downtown Harbor in the off season," Ames Baker said. "It seems unlikely to do it through a store, but customesr come to us looking for the equipment for adventures, and this was a unique way to share the knowledge that goes along with those outdoor adventures."
Both Molly and Josh worked at Colgate University in New York as outdoor environmental educators, where they conducted a series of speakers' programs, she said. Once they moved their young family back to Harbor Springs, where Josh grew up and Molly's family had a seasonal home in Good Hart, they bought the Outfitter. Having witnessed how well received the Speakers Series was in New York, the Bakers thought it would be an inspiring way to add an educational component to the retail store.
"That's what's behind it, it all fits in a community like this," Ames Baker said. "There are so many passionate people here. They're passionate about where they live and the natural world around us."
Ames Baker admits that she finds it fun to discover speakers for the store's series and to realize the range of expertise that people have in their specific areas of interest. Most of their speakers are found through word-of-mouth from both customers and staff, and from searching local organization's websites and resources.
"It's sort of funny sometimes how it can be a challenge to locate a speaker and schedule a date, and then it all falls into place," she said. "The process of working with the speaker is really fun, and then to see how excited the people are when they arrive to hear the talks - and then when the people sit around after the speaker is finished and talk with each other - then we know it was a success."
Ames Baker speculates that the atmosphere of the store, with the kayaks and cross country skis in the back room where the chairs are set up for 40-50 audience members, lends itself to a unique, casual, relaxed venue. The homemade chocolate cookies she makes each time might have something to do with the appeal, in addition to the speaker's expertise.
There is usually a mix of PowerPoint presentations with photos, interactive lectures with "show and tell" props, and hands-on demonstrations for sport-specific training.
"It gives people a reason to come downtown on a random evening, to get out of the house when cabin fever hits, to see other people and talk to them about similar interests," Baker said. "We try to have a wide range of topics," Baker said. "We've had over 70 people venture out on a snowy February night to hear about wolves. It's really fun."
The speakers are not paid for their presentations, which usually last 45 to 60 minutes, followed by a question and answer period. Baker said they appreciate the generosity of the speakers. There is no fee to attend, but audience members are asked to bring a nonperishable food item that will be donated to the Harbor Springs Area Food Pantry.
"The audience feels like they are making a contribution and they are, it's really appreciated and needed," said Baker.
Stine's presentation on the Art of Ice Fishing will include a host of interesting ice fishing information, including how the extreme cold temperatures the area has been experiencing, which contributes to the heavy snowfall, actually impedes good ice formation.
"It insulates the lakes and keeps the ice conditions slushy and dangerous," Stine said. "Ice less than five inches thick is an unsafe condition. This is the worst winter in the 11 years that I've been here in terms of conditions for ice fishing."
Stine estimates that within a week or two the ice will reach its safe thickness, making conditions ideal for the art of fishing on ice.
For more information on Stine's educational presentations and Natureology, go to www.natureology.me. The Outfitter is located at 153 E. Main Street in Harbor Springs. For more information on the Speakers Series, call (231) 526-2621 or visit www.outfitterharborsprings.com.
Outfitter Speakers Series
All programs begin at 7 p.m. in the back room of the store
Tuesday, Jan. 21: Winter Ecology and the Art of Ice Fishing with Maureen Stine of Natureology
Tuesday, Feb. 18: Trees in Peril: Three Diseases on the Move with Molly and Ben Veling of Timberwolf Tree Care
Tuesday, March 18: Love the Lake: Stormwater Runoff and Rain Gardens with Jennifer Gelb of Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
Tuesday, April 15: Retiring to the Open Sea: A Sailing Adventure with Judy and Bill Stellin
Tuesday, May 20: Great Lakes Fishing: Tales of a Charter Captain with Captain Carbeck of the Edith Opal