Steve Henry teaches technology engineering to seventh and eighth graders at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City. He also teaches them archery, hunter education, bowhunting and will add fishing this fall.
“I've got a lot of kids that don't have a typical nuclear family,” Henry said. “A lot of them don't have a man in their lives to expose them to something like this. They are getting the opportunity to do something they normally couldn't do.”
Hunting and fishing are part of the school curriculum in classrooms across Oklahoma and not just in places like Eagletown, where bagging a big buck earns a kid as much praise as sinking a game-winning basket.
Edmond, Oklahoma City, Mustang, Western Heights and Yukon are just some of the places where fourth graders to seniors are learning about archery, bowhunting and fishing.
Eight years ago the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation started a pilot program for archery in eight schools. It was so popular that 350 schools are now participating. There is a state championship shoot held each spring in Oklahoma City.
“The kids loved the archery program so much the teachers were always asking us, ‘What else have you got?'” said Colin Berg of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
That success opened the door for the Wildlife Department to train instructors and provide the equipment necessary to teach hunter education, bowhunting and now fishing in the public schools.
Last year the Wildlife Department introduced fishing at 40 pilot schools already participating in the other programs. Another 100 schools are adding fishing classes this school year.
“We spend half a day training the teachers to teach fish identification, knot tying, ethics, conservation, etc.,” Berg said. “Once the teachers complete the training their school is eligible for an equipment kit.
“Its total value is just under $500 and all it costs the school is a day's time for the teacher to be trained. We go over different games they can play with the students and give them an opportunity to go fishing.”