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A primary goal of Extension Wildlife in Tennessee is to steer youth in a direction that will increase their chance of successful recruitment into society and make a positive difference in the way the public views and manages our natural resources. Tennessee’s 4-H Wildlife Project is in its 35th year of growing quality stewardship by 1) teaching the basic principles of wildlife ecology and management, 2) helping students understand the importance of wildlife in our environment, and 3) promoting citizenship/leadership. These efforts may lead to informed participation in natural resource conservation and land-use decision making.
The University of Tennessee has collaborated with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to offer a more comprehensive wildlife curriculum, while also providing more engaging activities for our youth. The 4-H Wildlife Project consists of a Wildlife Judging contest (known nationally as the Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program), a Food and Cover Establishment (FACE) contest, and a Junior High Wildlife Conference (Wildlife Camp). The FACE contest is being revised, incorporating a variety of wildlife habitat management techniques as a continuation of what 4-H’ers learn in Wildlife Judging. In addition, we are featuring the link between wildlife management and shooting sports by incorporating the 4-H Shooting Sports Curriculum and activities into our “Wildlife Camp.” This adds engaging activities and interest-related curriculum. These efforts teach 4-H’ers how to manage our wildlife resources in a more hands-on manner, while grabbing their attention with fun activities. Impacts of the experience were evaluated with pre/post-testing and surveys. The pre/post-tests indicated a 34% increase of knowledge gained. According to surveys, 4-H’ers thoroughly enjoyed their camp experience. The Tennessee 4-H Wildlife Project and 4-H Shooting Sports Program are engraining principles in the minds of youth that will foster sound stewardship of our natural resources and increase their chance of impacting society in a positive manner.