Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
LITTLE ROCK — Thanks to a new program offered through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, teachers looking for ways to incorporate the outdoors into physical education can have ready-made curriculums ready to go for the next school year. The Outdoor Adventures program created and administered through the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation enables teachers to choose from a variety of outdoors skills to create a semester-long class that qualifies for a physical education credit.
According to Scot McClure, director of education for OTF, 655 schools have signed up for the program throughout the nation, with the latest addition being right here in The Natural State. Cabot Freshman Academy recently joined in, creating education opportunities that vary from angling and archery to paddlesports and camping.
“There are 34 units in the program for teachers to choose from and all of them are applicable in Arkansas except for one: ice fishing,” McClure said. “The teacher can customize the program to fit the needs of their students and their community.”
Outdoor Adventures curriculum is for kindergarten to 12th grade and incorporates existing AGFC programs like Arkansas National Archery in the Schools, Boating Education and Hunter Education. The recent passage of Senate Bill 161 allows all Arkansas public schools to incorporate hunter safety courses into their physical education and health and safety curriculum.
Additionally, AGFC education staff and facilities continue to serve teachers with training, resources, and experiences that support the curriculum units as they develop them for their own students.
“Helping students find their outside is what we love to do and partnering with teachers through this curriculum really expands outdoor skill and conservation education throughout the state,” said Hollie Sanders, assistant chief of education for the AGFC. “Bringing the outdoors inside the classroom is a great way to combine the opportunity for STEM education, physical education, and life skills for each student.”
McClure says that many schools that are returning to in-person classes may be looking for new and exciting ways to keep their students focused after a year of in-home learning. Instead of a standard physical education program, the Outdoor Adventures class could offer them some of the same experiences the nation has rediscovered during the pandemic and foster that creativity and desire to grow. Additionally, he knows of some teachers who are coming onboard at schools that are being faced with creating entirely new curriculums after positions were vacated by retiring teachers or teachers who moved into other lines of work.
“In Arkansas, there are many schools who have accumulated much of the gear over the years, but the teacher may not know how best to incorporate it into their lessons and activities,” McClure said. “They already have the equipment, but need the daily lesson plans, and that’s where we can really help.”
Schools that may not have equipment budgets can also take advantage of special grants through the program to purchase archery gear, fishing tackle and other outdoor items to be used in lessons. Not only are grants available through OTF, but additional grants are available in Arkansas through the Department of Rural Services from fine money collected by AGFC officers.
Each year schools have the opportunity to apply for Conservation Education Grants that fund educational programs focused on fish, wildlife and conservation in the county,” Sanders said. “Every dollar collected from fines on poaching and other wildlife violations in Arkansas goes into this fund that is earmarked to support programs just like this.”
Visit www.agfc.com/en/education or call 501-223-6300 to learn more about education programs offered by the AGFC. For more information on signing up for the Outdoor Adventures program, contact Scot McClure at 972-504-9008 or email [email protected].