Fishing becomes part of schools’ P.E.

Wichita middle and high schools hope teaching fishing in physical education classes will be popular for students.
Wichita middle and high schools hope teaching fishing in physical education classes will be popular for students. The Wichita Eagle

Bobbers and spinnerbaits may become part of some Wichita school district physical education classes soon.

“You don’t have classes just full of athletes, you have kids who are bikers, kids who are skaters and a lot of kids with outside interests,” said Karla Stenzel, the district’s physical education curriculum coach. “Anytime we can offer something that appeals to those kinds of kids, we try to do it.”

Stenzel was one of about 80 Wichita high and middle school teachers to attend a basic fishing orientation program presented by Shane Wilson, founder of Fishing’s Future, a Texas-based organization designed to get more families fishing together. Wilson’s group assist schools and assorted groups wanting to hold fishing programs. It offers instructional materials and a volunteer group of certified fishing instructors.

So far, Wichita is the largest school district in the nation to utilize his group’s services.

“That has us extremely excited,” said Wilson, an elementary school teacher in Texas. “We’re hoping things go well and other (big cities) will follow the lead.”

Stenzel said a group of physical education teachers have signed up to be trained as Fishing’s Future instructors in March. It’s not mandatory.

“This is like anything, you have to get a teacher that’s excited about it,” she said. “We’re hoping enough teachers see the value in it.”

Experience with fishing trips taken in Latchkey programs at College Hill Elementary has convinced Stenzel the program will be popular with kids.

Fishing won’t the first outdoors-based recreation taught in Wichita schools. Stenzel said most middle and high schools have been participating in the Archery in the Schools program for several years. Like Fishing’s Future, the archery program is a national group the provides education for teachers and helps secure equipment and other learning tools.

Like the archery class, which has special backstops, much of the fishing instruction can be done indoors, or on school grounds, but Stenzel envisions field trips to area lakes or streams and, hopefully, increased fishing interest in Wichita.

“We’re in an urban setting, and I think a lot of kids will be excited about doing something different,” she said. “Maybe we can do some (beyond school hours) programs so their parents can get engaged in fishing, too. Who knows, maybe this will lead to a fishing club at a school. I’d love to see it keep growing.”

Wilson predicts the program will grow, and offer other benefits, too, based on what he’s seen at Texas schools. He said truencies and behavior problems decreased when outdoors activities were taught in the first few hours of the school day.

“At one point we gave (ninth-graders) a bunch of old, junk reels and told them if they could fix them, and keep them together they could keep them,” Wilson said. “The next thing you know they were learning the casting stroke and other things. After that we brought in a couple of old Coleman tents and let them figure out how to put them together. It gets them interested in the outdoors, and how to better stewards of the environment.”

Related stories from Wichita Eagle