Ken Carroll, Parks and Natural Resources professor at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, is the 2022 recipient of the Brass Bluegill award from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fish Iowa! program.
Since 2008, Carroll has been a Fish Iowa! trainer, sharing the materials with his students. He includes Fish Iowa! in Applications of Natural Resources, a first year, first semester class. He also trains students in Project WILD and Aquatic WILD, which help them develop interpretive skills and provides content material they will use when they complete the Certified Interpretive Guide Training through the National Association of Interpretation their final semester of the program.
Kirkwood’s Parks and Natural Resources students are trained in ecological restoration and interpretive skills to help them secure jobs as naturalists, park rangers, park managers and conservation officers. Many transfer to four-year colleges and universities.
Carroll has trained 450 future conservation professionals in Fish Iowa! and the WILD resources. “This pre-service training is invaluable as a resume builder,” explains Carroll. “What we thought were soft skills of being able to communicate and lead really were a lot more important than that. These students are exposed to communication and presentation skills, and find strengths to talk about natural resources and practice those skills over and over to make an impression on a prospective employer in an interview or hit the ground running in their careers.”
Students are fully immersed in the Fish Iowa! teaching module throughout the semester. They learn fishing knots, practice casting, create their own fish to learn about adaptations, and compete in a casting competition. Students often follow up by fishing in ponds on the Kirkwood campus.
One of Ken’s students shared, “Ken is the organizer of several clubs on campus and teaches many types of classes, but I personally believe his true passion is teaching Fish Iowa!” Another said, “He has inspired generations of college students to get involved in fishing and teaching others.”
Carroll will receive his award, along with fishing equipment to use with his classes, at the June 9 Natural Resources Commission Meeting. The Brass Bluegill award has been presented each year since 1996 to an outstanding local program that exemplifies the goals of the Fish Iowa! Angler Education program.