Former science teacher Michael Hoke is remembered for his passion “to preserve nature and teach future generations to be kind to the world”.
The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office is hosting the 7th Annual Michael Hoke Memorial Outdoor Awareness for Kids at Claiborne West Park under the Halliburton Pavilion from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on August 4. The event is free for ages 8 to 14.
Parents can register their children at orange.agrilife.org or call 409-882-7010.
“Check-in will begin at 8:30 a.m.,” said Franny Woods, Orange County 4-H and Youth Development Program Assistant. “Parents can register their children online or call the office.”
Michael Hoke’s legacy is the love of learning he instilled in thousands of students when he was a grade seven science teacher at CISD West Orange-Cove.
“He was quick with a joke or a tale and he remembered students’ names years after they were in his class,” Woods said. “These students became teachers, school principals, doctors, lawyers, business owners and workers. None of them have forgotten him.
Woods said learning was a lifelong journey for Hoke and he shared his insights with everyone.
“Even adults learned something new from him in casual conversation,” she said. “When he retired from teaching, he went to work for the Stark Foundation and he oversaw the construction of Shangri La. His vision was to have classes at Shangri La. His love was to teach people the outdoors.
The 7th Annual Michael Hoke Outdoor Awareness Camp teaches kids about protecting the environment.
“I think it’s important for parents and children to remember this because the environment is very important,” she said. “One of the games is ‘The Anderson Duck Dog station,’ which is a group of men who train dogs to retrieve and obey. They go out every year and show kids how dogs work. Then they let the children work with the dogs.
Another activity is called ‘Benthic Testing’, where children take water samples from the pond and let them observe the samples under a microscope.
“Children will see all kinds of life in the sample,” she said. “From small shrimps to small water bugs and many other things. I think it’s important for young people to see what lives in our waters and how to protect it.
Other activities included are cooking over a campfire, a display of skulls and furs, and a walk on the nature trail. Closed shoes only. Please no open-toed shoes or sandals.
Hoke’s first teaching job was in 1971 in Orange at what was then North Junior High School. He grew up in Dickinson, where his father was unionized and worked in a refinery. Unions were important in his life and he created an American Federation of Teachers in Orange.
He was named the Texas recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Award for Science and Mathematics in 1989. He received the award during a White House luncheon with President George H. W. Bush.
Hoke created The Nature Classroom on a small patch of wetlands along Adams Bayou in Orange. The classroom was part of the West Orange-Cove DSIC and students spent class time outdoors, immersed in nature.
After 10 years at Shangri La, he retired again but did not stop working. He worked with the Big Thicket Association and piloted the Ivory Bill along the Neches River. He became president of the Golden Triangle Sierra Club and also worked with the Science Superstars program and the Jason de Lamar project.
— By Sierra Kondos