Teaching them right — Elementary students get lesson in fishing, conservation

This isn’t your normal physical education class.

For students at Stonegate Elementary School in Bedford, about halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, two weeks of the spring semester are devoted to learning all about fishing.

The idea and labor of teacher and avid angler Scott Metheny, the course is in its second year at Stonegate, and Metheny culminates the curriculum by hosting a fundraiser — Fishing for Heart — to raise funds for the American Heart Association.

Last year, about 150 people attended and caught fish in the pond.

“I’m trying to introduce these kids to fishing,” he said. “Ninety-seven percent of them haven’t done anything in the outdoors. This is just combining things I’m passionate about. I’ve been with the district for 23 years. I build the pond in the gym, bring my own rods and so on. I wanted to make it special for the kids.”

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Metheny puts blue paper down on half of the gym, along with structure in the pond, duck decoys, a bobcat decoy and other enhancements to make the experience as lifelike as possible. The rods are baited with a small plastic fish that fits into the fish being caught on the pond. Once “hooked up,” the kids reel in their catch, identify the species and record their catch.

While Metheny wants the kids to have fun, he also wants to stress education and learning about other factors that influence fishing.

“I have them identify species, make a fishing logbook and enter what they catch, along with the weights, in the book,” he said. We have about 10 or 15 minutes of instruction before we actually start casting where we go over Texas Parks and Wildlife regulations, safety and species identification.”

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On “Stonegate Lake” as it is known, the students learn about the animals that inhabit the pond edges like frogs, ducks, turtles and predators. The class will eventually be certified in the TPWD junior angler program, according to Metheny.

“Take care of your equipment,” Metheny told students. “Also, take care of the habitat. This is where the animals live. Don’t leave trash. Wipe your rods and reels down when you are done. All of these fish in the pond can be caught here in Texas — largemouth bass, white bass, Guadalupe bass, catfish, crappie and perch.

“What is live bait?”

The students responded with, “insects, minnows, nightcrawlers and hot dogs.”

One student, Fisher Kune, proudly showed his first entry into his logbook — a 1.12-pound largemouth bass.

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“And my name is really Fisher,” he said. “This is pretty cool.”

 

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