In Greene County, at Mountain Brook Junior High, teenagers have the option to fish for their physical education credit. It's definitely a popular choice!
200 kids headed out to Leavellwood to experience first hand bass fishing. The owners of the place, Trey and Pam Williams, were their teachers, and showed them everything they needed to know.
The class, taught by John Phillips, first begins with some classroom notes and then moves to the actual real deal out in Leavellwood, surrounded by the heart of Black Belt Lake.
Phillips grew up fishing with his famous father of the same name, and his passion sparked a suggestion to the school board to add in fishing to the physical education curriculum. This was added in 12 years ago and was then further developed by Doug Darr, Aquatic Education Coordinator with The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
According to Darr, they teach the kids how to cast, and do a segment from workbooks. The kids are taught how to tie knots such as the Palomar, and then spend two days learning to identify different types of fish. 20 percent of their grade is a worksheet involved material from outdooralabama.com, which includes the genus and species of fish as well as how to cast properly, how to bait hooks, and how to use baitcaster reels.
The trip is not a mandatory part of the class, and students must pay $80 for the trip, giving them transportation, fun fishing, and lunch to fill their stomachs. The seventh-graders enjoy the first trip, followed by the anxious eighth-graders. It's a great experience being able to fish outdoors and get credit for school work. It's almost like playing hooky but not getting in trouble. Kids enjoy the bonding experience and begin to develop a love for the outdoors.
The trips are normally limited to around 70 each day, but this year there were 113 seventh-graders and 80 eight-graders who were excited to get their hands on a fishing rod. Phillips praised the Montgomerys and their great job with the kids, saying that the kids were always in sight and that they had taught around 7,000 kids how to fish over the years.
Darr said that the ADCNR's education outreach program carried out a total of 81 sessions of first hand fishing classes, helping 1,932 anglers in total. In the sessions, they learn about safety, ethics, casting, and how to identify fish, as well as some basic fish biology. This all leads to better enjoyment and participation for kids and anglers, so that they know what they are doing.
For more information on how to get this into your school in Alabama, reach out the the ADCNR's outreach program and have them get in touch with the physical education department at your school. A quick explanation of the benefits and the outside-the-box mentality will quickly have the school jumping at the opportunity to participate.