Northwoods Experience: Junior Loon Biologist Program Lets Kids Learn Hands-On in Crosslake
This summer sparked a new and exciting collaboration between the Crosslake Community Center and the National Loon Center in the form of the Junior Loon Biologist program.
“This was a special program we started this year just for kids in the target age 7 to 12,” explained National Loon Center Stewardship & Outreach Manager Natasha Bartolotta. “We can bring them out talk about loons, about the freshwater environment, and bring them out on the lake to watch the loons.”
The program was started as a means of showcasing the connections between loon and human habitats, and how the two species co-exist with one another.
“Biggest takeaway is how to be a steward for our ecosystems up here,” said Crosslake Community Center Youth Coordinator Sarah Ramirez. “Loons, they’re mixed into human habitats. We use our lakes, loons need the lakes too, how are there ways we can coexist peacefully?”
“And one of the main things that we want them to take away is just a passion for the loons and a deeper understanding of them,” added Bartolotta.
Part of the fun of the Junior Loon Biologist program is getting to see some of the tools and techniques that professional biologists use on a regular basis.
“[Kids] learn some water quality testing, and how to test water quality, specifically water clarity tests and some other cool experiences like using an underwater camera,” explained National Loon Center Program Operations Associate Mike Pluimer.
“These are real activities, real science at play, and you know, it’s a great way to get kids involved and show them firsthand what needs to happen to be able to conserve our loons,” added Ramirez.
While much of it is meant to be an educational experience, the Junior Loon Biologist program also puts a heavy emphasis on fun for the kids involved.
“It’s really cool to see how engaged they are on the boat and hear them ask questions and show that they’re interested,” said Pluimer.
“These trips have booked out pretty far in advance since we’ve started so we’re really hopeful that it’ll just continue,” added Ramirez.
The National Loon Center also offers free loon tours to the community in order to observe the state bird in its natural habitat. More information can be found on their website.