25 sixth-graders complete ATV safety certification at ISD 166 assisted by DNR and Cook County Sheriff’s Office
Kalli Hawkins

25 sixth-graders complete ATV safety certification at ISD 166 assisted by DNR and Cook County Sheriff’s Office

For the past six weeks, twenty-five sixth-graders have been learning foundational ATV safety skills through online coursework at ISD 166. On the morning of Oct. 24, the six-graders then put their skills to the test behind an ATV to complete the final requirements for their ATV safety certification. 

The ATV certification is part of a safety course offered at ISD 166 and led by middle school teacher Emma Spoon. The course also includes snowmobile and firearm safety and is part of a collaborative effort with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). 

The safety course was implemented into the curriculum seven years ago and, since then, has increased the opportunity for middle school students to learn foundational safety skills and pursue safety certifications. 

“As we know in the county, kids are going to be exposed to ATVs, snowmobiles, and firearms at some point. Whether it’s their own families or visiting friends, so you want to make sure they’ve got the basic understanding to be safe,” Spoon said. “That’s really our goal of developing this class.”

During the Oct. 24 in-field event, three Cook County conservation officers, two Cook County Sheriff Deputies, and Emma Spoon assisted the twenty-five students. The involved conservation officers were Kylan Hill, Thomas Wahlstrom, and Hudson Ledeen. The two Cook County Sheriff Deputies were Mike Running and Chris Schrupp. 

“So this isn’t my background. I’m not an active ATV user,” Spoon said. “But being able to learn with the kids has been really amazing, to kind of see it through their eyes.”

Conservation officer Hill said he and the other conservation officers enjoy participating in the ATV safety certification process. “This is one of my more favorite activities to do for my job, just because you can make such an impact and then you can also make such a connection with the residents in the community.”

Since implementing the safety course into the curriculum, rather than an after-school program, Spoon said youth participation and engagement have increased. “The participation has been wonderful,” she said. “The instructors are so impressed with the numbers that we’re getting every year.”

On average, since 2017, twenty-seven middle school students have completed the ATV safety certification each year. “It’s been amazing to see the family support,” Spoon said. “Knowing now that families know when they come into sixth grade that they’re going to have these things taken care of and they don’t have to worry about them is really empowering. And it’s been really great to facilitate.”

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins attended the in-field ATV safety certification event at ISD 166 and spoke with middle school teacher Emma Spoon and Conservation Officer Kylan Hill. Audio from the event is below. 

Photos of the in-field ATV safety certifications: