The mission of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission revolves around getting people outdoors to enjoy what the Natural State has to offer in a responsible way. Now, the commission is working to bring that to kids through school programming.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has partnered with the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation to provide school curriculum and teacher training. Through the partnership, Outdoors Tomorrow provides schools with a curriculum for a fee, and the commission provides the necessary training for instructors at no additional cost.
“We were searching for a way to get outdoors education in Arkansas schools, and we found the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation,” said Sheila Connerly, school connections coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “We loved how teacher-friendly it was and the different lessons available.”
The Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation teaches outdoor education, and promotes and funds the conservation of wildlife across the world, providing in-school curriculum for physical education and agricultural science wildlife management. It educates more than 50,000 students a year. It has expanded to 560 schools in 35 states.
Lessons include subjects like hunter and boater education, survival skills, first aid and CPR, backpacking, camping, archery, ATV safety, conservation, shooting sports introduction, and more. To date, 16 schools in Arkansas offer the curriculum, including Vilonia High School, which introduced a pilot program this year. It has more than 120 students enrolled.
The students rotate teachers and topics every nine weeks. Throughout the year, the students learn about survival skills, weather, outdoor cooking and first-aid, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, boating, and ATV and UTV safety.
“You can immediately see a kid’s face brighten up when they leave the walls of the school and get outside,” Marek said. “There’s just something about nature, in general, that really speaks to students and kids, as well as adults. That’s my biggest thing with this class, getting to see the kids connect.”
The typical week has students learning in a classroom setting 3-4 days a week learning about a topic, and outside 1-2 days a week putting things learned in the classroom into practice.
“It’s training these students to be outdoors men and women,” said Jacob Marek, a Vilonia High School teacher. “It teaches them the basics of getting outside and going to do stuff where technology can’t take you.”
The classes teach students real-world life skills, said Marek.
“Some of these kids have never experienced this,” he said. “Our goal is to allow students to have fun while learning.”
For schools interested in providing educational opportunities, contact Scot McClure with Outdoors Tomorrow or visit gootf.com for more information.