UMD student works to merge outdoor learning with higher education

Janett Perv strives to change Estonia's educational framework.

Janett Perv
Janett Perv is a first-year graduate student in the Environmental Education Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Contributed / Janett Perv
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DULUTH — University of Minnesota Duluth student Janett Perv is a multilingual secondary teacher from Estonia studying environmental education.

The first-year graduate student has lived in four countries and traveled to 23 others as a professional basketball player for Martigues Sport Basket in France. She observed a lack of connection between people and their environment during her travels.

"Basketball allowed me to travel a lot, and you just notice things," Perv said. "I saw how people interacted with their environment. I didn't like what I saw in France at all. They were littering a lot, the environment was just dirty, and people didn't care."

Perv is a recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship that placed her at UMD. The fellowship provides grants for individually designed study and research projects for English teaching assistant programs. Perv decided to pursue an educational master's degree after quitting basketball, although teaching wasn't her preferred career choice.

"I didn't plan on it. It wasn't my childhood dream to become a teacher, even though my mother and grandmother were," Perv said. "I didn't know how to teach at all. It was terrifying. But, slowly, it grew on me."


Perv is in the process of developing a new national framework for outdoor education. Perv wants to reinvent teacher preparation in Estonia by applying environmental teaching practices to higher education.

"Nonformal and formal education are seen as separate, so I'm trying to close the gap a little more," Perv said. "I feel that students are disconnected from nature. I thought that maybe I could learn something in the States. We don't have this kind of program back home."

Janett Perv snowshoes at Gooseberry Falls on the North Shore.
Contributed / Janett Perv

Perv is still in the very beginning stage of creating a national framework for outdoor education, but hopes to narrow ideas and make it her final project before she graduates.

"I have this background in formal education and being inside all the time isn't motivating," she said. "So, having a chance to be outside and connecting with the environment teaches you more and makes students appreciate their surroundings more. They can learn things from the outdoors they might not when indoors."

As a new Duluthian, she said the outdoor community has surprised and inspired her in several ways.

"Here people are so engaged in doing so many things outdoors, which is mind-blowing," she said. "I have not seen a community that just says, 'Let's go outside' and 'Let's go take the dogs for a hike.' It's nice to see."

When Perv's fellowship is up, she has to return to Estonia for two years, where she plans to bring her newfound project and ideas to its classrooms.

This story originally contained a misspelling of Janett Perv's name. It was updated at 2:16 p.m. (March 9) with the proper spelling. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Abigael Smith is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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