Photos: Wilderness newbies develop an 'I Can!' attitude outdoors

Monika Saxe watches as her nephew Lance Montminy fishes.
Monika Saxe watches as her nephew Lance Montminy fishes off the dock at Snelling Lake during the DNR's I Can Fish! program on July 27, 2018.
Sara Porter | MPR News

Two years ago, Lance Montminy learned to mountain climb, this year he's learning to fish.

"What should we do next year?" his aunt Monika Saxe asked as Montminy watched his bobber move from the dock on Snelling Lake. "Row? Go on a kayak or a canoe?"

Saxe was talking about the I Can! programs — outdoor learning sessions held across Minnesota to teach people skills like camping, mountain biking, fishing, paddling and even archery.

Amitri Hosea watches his line after casting into Snelling Lake.
Amitri Hosea watches his line after casting into Snelling Lake. After a short introduction, students started reeling in sunnies from the dock.
Sara Porter | MPR News

The program was created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and experienced naturalists and interns teach the sessions. DNR Public Affairs Officer Harland Hiemstra says the classes tend to fill up, after all, it's no secret that Minnesota is full of people who love the outdoors.

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Even so, these kinds of programs might be more necessary than ever as shifts in population affect the next generations' chances to learn these outdoor skills.

As the state gets older, grandparents aren't able to take their families on camping trips as often. As more people move into metro areas the opportunities to get outdoors seem diminished. And as the state becomes more diverse, newcomers to the area might not even know where to start.

Gabby Travers, left, Abdul Diriye, right, celebrate with Ishmael Diriye
MinnAqua Intern Gabby Travers, left, and Abdul Diriye, right, celebrate after Ishmael Diriye successfully casts his rod. The I Can Fish! class practiced casting in the grass before moving on to the dock.
Sara Porter | MPR News

It's part of a national trend, but the DNR is looking to buck that, Hiemstra said.

Adults pay a fee to reserve their spot and the DNR handles the rest as far as planning, bringing supplies and teaching groups the proper techniques and rules they need to keep in mind when enjoying the outdoors.

The idea is to remove any barriers that might be keeping someone from trying something new outside, said Krista Jensen, lead interpretive naturalist at Fort Snelling State Park. Lack of funds, time or knowhow can make it difficult to get out of the house and onto the lake, trail or campground.

Ceci Montminy holds the fish her grandma just caught at a distance
Ceci Montminy holds the fish her grandma, Sandy Hiltner, just caught -- at a distance.
Sara Porter | MPR News

Once they have the basics down, though, the hope is that families will go off and try the activity on their own, starting a new tradition and creating the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, Jensen said.

For more information on the program check out the DNR's website here.

And check out photos and video from a recent session of I Can Fish! held at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul below.