Dave Foster remembers how it was when he was a youngster.
He was interested in hunting and fishing, but he had no one to mentor him. His parents weren’t interested in the outdoors, and neither were many others he was closest to.
So he and some of his friends learned on their own. They went fishing whenever they got a chance and took hunter education classes. They started with small game and gradually worked their way up to deer hunting.
To this day, Foster is passionate about hunting and fishing. And with his past in mind, he wants to give kids a head start in learning about the outdoors.
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That’s why he has started a unique outdoors education program at Dodge City High School, where he is the head football coach and instructs strength and weight-training classes.
Through the physical education department, he leads a program that teaches youngsters about everything from fishing to hunting to archery.
“We have 1,800 kids at our high school, and 85 to 90 percent of them have never hunted or fished,” Foster said. “We’re trying to change that.
“We’re bringing the outdoors to them.”
This isn’t an after-school program. It’s a regular time slot in the school day.
It started when Foster came to the high school and noticed a shallow marsh that was retaining water. He dreamed of a day when a pond would be built in that spot, deep enough to hold fish and teach youngsters how to catch them.
With the backing of the school administration, he called the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and arranged for a grant to have the pond dug out and stocked with fish. When the basin filled with this year’s rain, he had an outdoors classroom.
The Fishing’s Future program trained teachers, provided curriculum and donated rods and reels. The Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s aquatic education program also provided rods, reels and expertise.
Soon, high school youngsters were learning to tie a knot, put a worm on a hook and reel in fish.
But that was only the start. Foster and others also started a National Archery in the Schools Program, and Dodge City won the state championship last year.
Hunter education and bow hunting education also are taught through the PE department, and after-school activities are offered.
“A lot of different people have joined to make this happen,” Foster said, crediting the high school’s PE department and the the organizations that have donated time and money. “We’ve already reached a lot of kids who knew nothing about the outdoors.”