April 8, 2013

Wardens share appreciation for Maine outdoors with Belgrade students

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BELGRADE — Maine game wardens visited Belgrade Central School on Monday to share what they do and to teach students how to stay safe while enjoying the Maine outdoors.

click image to enlarge

Game Warden Michelle Merrifield and her tracking dog, Duchess, demonstrate how they train together during a visit to the Belgrade Central School on Monday.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

Game Wardens Kris MacCabe, left, and Lt. Shon Theriault sign autographs for students and faculty Monday during a visit to the Belgrade Central School.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Students also got a chance to meet two game wardens who star in the Animal Planet TV show, “North Woods Law,” about the Maine Warden Service.

Outside the school, Cpl. Michelle Merrifield gave students tips about what to do if they get lost in the woods and what to expect if game wardens were trying to find them. She brought along her K-9 police dog and talked about how they work together to locate people.

Acting Capt. Shon Theriault told students gathered in the gym about the role of game wardens, and he showed a promotional video for the warden service and clips from the TV show.

Theriault, who has a son and daughter at the school, said such presentations are aimed at teaching people how to stay safe during outdoor activities this time of year. After the presentations, the two wardens who star in “North Woods Law,” Kris MacCabe and Troy Thibodeau, signed autographs for students.

“The excitement and awareness we see at these events because of ‘North Woods’ have definitely increased,” Theriault said.

Besides boosting interest in becoming a game warden, Theriault said the show has increased awareness about the outdoor recreational opportunities in Maine and related laws.

Monday’s event was part of the school’s Eagle Enrichment Program — monthly educational programming that encourages students to learn more about their community.

Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service, said these presentations help build connections in the community.

“This is something more proactive, and we’re able to meet with young people and adults in a non-law enforcement situation that allows them to get to know us,” MacDonald said.

Principal Catherine Gordon said the students who have seen the show “North Woods Law” were particularly excited.

MacDonald, the project manager for the show, said the TV program has helped spread their mission to a greater audience.

“It’s certainly brought a great deal of attention to our game wardens and our profession, not just in Maine, but across the country,” he said.

Gordon said they started the Eagle Enrichment Program at the start of this school year to give teachers common planning time to prepare for the implementation of the standards-based learning model in Regional School Unit 18.

“It really grew out of a need for increased time during the workday for the staff, but also to make sure we did something that was beneficial and educational for the students,” Gordon said.

She said they hope to expand the program next year to connect it more with the school curriculum.

The most popular visits so far have been from the Belgrade Fire Department and veterans conducting a flag-folding ceremony, Gordon said.

Firefighters spoke with students in October about fire safety and showed how their trucks and equipment work.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
pkoenig@mainetoday.com

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