ALPENA, Mich. — Over 250 Thunder Bay Junior High School students went on an adventure recently without leaving the classroom.
Randy Baker, a professional trained biologist and naturalist and owner of Naturalist Endeavors, led an interactive Lewis and Clark presentation for the eighth-grade PBL/Humanities classes.
Baker came up from Columbiaville, which is about 20 miles northeast of Flint. He grew up in Ossineke, and graduated from Alpena High School in 1973.
“When I was in high school, they actually let me leave the high school, on my motorcycle, and go to Sunset Elementary School, and take animals in to show the kids there,” he recalled. “I’ve been doing it a while.”
Baker, 67, has been providing programs for schools and other organizations for over 25 years, The Alpena News reports.
His style is to keep it interesting and fun for the students and himself, so he can provide an authentic presentation with energy and enthusiasm.
“I do two basic things,” Baker explained. “I’m an educator, first of all. I always tell people, I got out of teaching because I like to teach. I didn’t like all the hassles of the paperwork, and all that stuff, but I sure love to teach.”
Dressed as an 1800s explorer, Baker spoke to the classes as though he had been there on those first expeditions in North America.
Students listened attentively, laughing and responding to Baker’s dramatic presentation.
“I do both science and history programs, so it keeps me somewhat sane,” Baker said.
He likes a lot of variety in his programs, to keep it exciting. His presentations are never scripted.
“Scripting is called boredom,” he said.
His educational background provides the basis for his programs, but his life experience spices things up.
“My degrees are actually all in biology,” he added. “I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in biology, minor in conservation, and a master’s degree in college teaching of biology, and I did three years of doctorate work studying white-tailed deer.”
His educational background, combined with his adventurous nature and experience world traveling, make this a perfect fit for him and the students he teaches and entertains.
“I can cover more in-depth things than some people can,” he said, adding that when it comes to his programs, “each one is totally different.”
In addition to educational programs, Baker does wildlife tours around the world, to Kenya, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and more.
“I’ve led tours all over the United States, and most parts of Canada,” he said. “I’ve canoed in the Arctic, so I can talk about some of the routes they looked for — the Northwest Passage to the West — been there, done it. Which means you’re not just teaching what you read. You’re teaching from having done it.”
He has completed a number of long-distance canoeing trips, including one lasting over 24 hours straight.
“It was kind of fun,” he recalled of that trip, which he took seven or eight years ago.
He has canoed from under the Mackinac Bridge to Alpena three different times, canoed the entire west side of Lake Huron within a couple of miles of Port Huron, and from Tawas down to Bay City.
“I like adventure,” Baker said. “I like trying new stuff.”
This program is sponsored by Thunder Bay Arts and funded by the Women’s Giving Circle of the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan.
“I do a variety of teaching techniques,” he added. “It breaks it up and keeps it lively.”