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Friday, January 30, 2009

"Past Hope, Towards Change": Martin Luther King Day at Michigan Tech

Text, photos and video by Joshua Jensen

HOUGHTON -- Martin Luther King Week at Michigan Technological University began on Monday, Jan. 19, with the theme "Past Hope, Towards Change." The events began on Monday with the "I Have A Dream" speech, recited in its entirety by Nicole White, treasurer of the Black Student Association (BSA).

Despite falling snow and chilly temperatures, Nicole White, treasurer of Michigan Tech's Black Student Association (BSA), recites Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the MTU Memorial Union Building on Jan. 19, opening a week of activities in honor of King's birthday. Joshua Jensen captured this video excerpt of the speech. (Video © 2009 Joshua Jensen for Keweenaw Now. Reproduced with permission.)

At one point White echoed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I have a dream that my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The speech drew a varied crowd of Michigan Tech students, staff and community members, who participated in the candlelight march afterwards. The marchers proceeded across campus while being led in the negro spiritual "Lift Every Voice And Sing," James Weldon Johnson's poem, now considered "The Negro National Anthem."* The crowd drew more members as others joined, singing the anthem through twice.

During the Martin Luther King event in the Rozsa lobby, MTU students, from left, Patrick Jasczak, Steve Rutkowski and Colin Singleton model the Martin Luther King tee shirts they made for the occasion. (Photo © 2009 Joshua Jensen)

The march ended at the Rozsa Center with a small reception of refreshments and hot chocolate. The crowd mingled until ushered into seats to listen to the opening speeches of members of the Black Student Association. Lisa Grayson, BSA secretary, spoke first. She was followed by Derelle Redmond.

During the reception for students, faculty and community in the lobby of the Rozsa Center, Derelle Redmond of MTU's Black Student Association addresses the crowd who participated in the candlelight march honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., on Jan. 19, 2009. (Photo © 2009 Joshua Jensen)

Redmond began his speech with the words, "a man can live 28 days without food. . . but cannot live one second without hope." His speech then explored the concept of hope, setting a theme for the week.

Editor's Note: A video with the actual film of King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered during the 1963 March on Washington, is available on MLK Online.

*The text of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is also available online. Click here.

Joshua Jensen, Keweenaw Now guest writer, is a second-year student of civil engineering at Michigan Tech University.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

KLT's first "Animal Tracking" outing a success

By Joshua Jensen

HOUGHTON -- The first "Animal Tracking" event was held by the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT) on Saturday, Jan. 10, at KLT's Paavola Wetlands Preserve near Hancock. About 20 people of various backgrounds attended the event to learn more about animal tracking from Brian Rajdl, trip leader and Hancock High School biology teacher.

Participants in the Keweenaw Land Trust's first "Animal Tracking" outing on Jan. 10, 2009, inspect bear tracks on a tree. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2009 Joshua Jensen)

Rajdl's interest in the topic was contagious. He explained that tracking for him was a science that convinced him to become an entire naturalist. Since animal tracks can be found in soil, knowledge of soil is a great aid, he explained. After soil comes a knowledge of plants, and then weather. The practice of tracking involves a holistic perception of the environment.

While tracking in January means enduring snow and cold, participants closely followed Rajdl's example despite some discomfort.

"Even though the temperature was in the teens and I thought I had dressed way too warmly, standing around is so much different than moving around outside in the winter and I was freezing cold," said Sue Ellen Kingsley. "So when Brian demonstrated the way to chill your fingers before plunging them deep into the snow to feel out the track buried there, I thought, 'No way!' I just took his word for it. I have since tried out this technique for identifying tracks and found that it works! Brian's skill and enthusiasm were so compelling that we all stayed right through the workshop in spite of the cold."

One of the first ways that the group became interactive in the event was through an example of track casting. Rajdl explained that there were a few tricks to making casts in the snow. One of these was to use an aerosol rubber spray to coat the track, providing a good base to place a casting medium of plaster of Paris. Another trick was to use two people to prepare the plaster of Paris. One person holds the mixing container and mixes while the other person pours the plaster of Paris. Erik Lilleskov's son Ben enjoyed the opportunity to help Brian out by mixing.

After finishing the casting, participants put on snowshoes, entered the woods and found tracks. Rajdl demonstrated how to investigate snowed-over tracks. As Kingsley mentioned, Rajdl put his fingers in some snow to cool them down so they wouldn't melt the snow and then plunged his fingers into the tracking -- feeling more with his numbed fingers than could be seen with the naked eye. Rajdl said he once took a blind person tracking and that person became one of his best students!

Brian Rajdl, trip leader and Hancock High School biology teacher, right, investigates a track with Erik Lilleskov, standing, and Erik's son Ben during the Keweenaw Land Trust's first "Animal Tracking" outing Jan. 10, 2009. (Photo © 2009 Joshua Jensen)

Sandy Aronson said her hands were too cold to take very many photos, but she was enthusiastic about the experience.

"One of his (Rajdl's) suggestions for getting good at tracking is, when you are out in the woods and can just sit still and watch, when you see an animal or bird, check its tracks out after it leaves so you can learn 'that’s what a fresh (whichever animal) track looks like,'" Aronson noted.

Aronson said she also learned from Rajdl that when looking at a track -- whether it's on the ground or in the snow or on a tree -- one should try to deduce WHO made the track, WHAT the animal was doing, WHY it may have been doing that, WHEN it may have been there, HOW it did it.

"Just like writing a good news article or solving a mystery -- the same 5 principles hold for tracking," she said.

Sandy Aronson took this photo of bear tracks on a tree during the Animal Tracking outing Jan. 10. (Photo © 2009 Sandy Aronson)

Rajdl explained that, in tracking, the correct answers are not as important as the process that is used to arrive at the answers. He gave fifteen minutes to make observations. Erik and Ben tried to decipher what appeared to be a mouse track.

As the hike continued, Rajdl explained that tracks are not always on the ground.

"Everything that is not flat is a track," he said. "Even a small bump in the forest is the track of an ancient rotting tree!"

A poplar tree showed the small scratches that at best guess were the tracks of a red squirrel. Another, larger, poplar tree showed the gouges that were probably the tracks of a bear cub.

Finally, when the hike came to an end, the casting from the beginning of the trip was revealed. It was detailed and completed with only the materials that were carried on the hike.

The casting is revealed. (Photo © 2009 Joshua Jensen)

Aronson said the Animal Tracking outing made her aware that being a proficient tracker takes a good understanding of the animals making the tracks and their ecosystems AND being patient enough to watch for tracks and to interpret them.

"In some cultures people spend a lifetime becoming trackers," Aronson noted. "Don’t let the fact that being able to track well takes a lot of time and effort discourage you from getting out in the woods and just trying it!"

Editor's Notes: Joshua Jensen, Keweenaw Now guest writer, is a second-year student of civil engineering at Michigan Tech University.

Evan McDonald, executive director of the Keweenaw Land Trust, will give a presentation on KLT's conservation work and community involvement, including activities such as this "Animal Tracking" outing, tonight, Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton. See article.

Portage Library to host presentation on Keweenaw Land Trust Jan. 29

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites those who love the natural world to hear Evan McDonald present "How Land Conservation in the Keweenaw Benefits Our Quality of Life."

Thanks to owners Terry Kinzel and Sue Ellen Kingsley, the public enjoys, through a conservation easement, the extensive Churning Rapids trail system linked to the City of Hancock's Maasto Hiihto trails. Read more on the KLT Web site. (Photo courtesy Keweenaw Land Trust)

The program with McDonald, Executive Director of the Keweenaw Land Trust, will be held at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Jan. 29, in the community room of the library.

McDonald will give an overview of the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT) and its mission as a community partner protecting land, water and quality of life through conservation, stewardship and education.

Founded in 1996 to serve Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw counties, KLT has protected nearly 3000 acres, most of which is open for public recreation and education. McDonald will highlight the successes of conservation partnerships and programs and will describe opportunities for the public to enjoy conserved lands and get involved with protecting more of the Copper Country’s special landscape. In particular, KLT has made progress with long-term land conservation goals in the Hancock-Calumet corridor -- with exciting opportunities ahead.

Additionally, to involve the community, the newly launched "KLT Outings" event series offers opportunities to get outside, have fun and learn how land conservation benefits our quality of life.

To learn more visit the KLT Web site.

Everyone is invited to attend library events and presentations are free.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Katie Alvord to present Writer's Journey seminar Jan. 29 at Finlandia

HANCOCK -- Katie Alvord, best known as the author of Divorce Your Car! Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile, will present the second Finlandia University Writer’s Journey seminar from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Chapel of St. Matthew on the Finlandia University campus.

Alvord is a freelance writer and long-term advocate of transportation reform. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Alternatives, the Boston Globe, Orion Afield, E Magazine, Utne Reader, and others.* A former librarian, she has worked with non-profit groups and served on local environmental and bicycle advisory committees.

Most recently, Alvord’s series on climate change in the Lake Superior basin, first published on Keweenaw Now, won the 2007 Science Journalism Award for Online Reporting from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.* In 1993, she was recognized as a San Francisco Bay Area Clean Air Champion for "making a difference" by going car-free and writing about the experience. Alvord has lectured frequently on environmental topics in the U.S. and Canada. Born and raised in northern California, she now lives in the Copper Country.

The series of eleven Finlandia University Writer’s Journey seminars, occurring weekly from January through April 2009, features talks by poets, fiction and non-fiction writers and journalists in which the authors share their work and discuss the writing process, literary craft and publishing.

The third Writer’s Journey seminar, to take place Monday, Feb. 2, will feature Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of Sundays in America : Writing about a Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith.

For additional information, please contact Suzanne Van Dam at 906-487-7515 or

*Editor's Note: Katie Alvord wrote several articles for the original Keweenaw Now. Her prize-winning articles on climate change in the Lake Superior basin can be accessed in our archives.