Spending the day fishing, searching pond water for insects, and hiking nature trails might not be a traditional middle school field trip, but organizers of the first Youth Fishing Day hope the May 11 event sparked an appreciation for the outdoors in participating sixth graders."The urban complex has spread into our rural areas, and people have become removed from the processes that produce our food and fiber," said Adam Rohnke, wildlife and fisheries agent with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. "Even though we have pretty good access to the outdoors in Mississippi, a lot of kids never get the opportunity to enjoy it and to learn about nature and how important it is to everyday life."
Employees of MSU’s Extension Service, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, the Mississippi Natural Science Museum, and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks taught the students about pond and fish ecology, fishing equipment, boats and boat safety. The highlight of the day was that each student got the opportunity to fish in the pond.
The trip to the Coastal Plain Branch of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station supplemented the students’ classroom studies.
"We are right in the middle of studying ecology," said Wanda Estes, sixth-grade science and math teacher at Newton County Middle School. "This is great because being able to see the concepts that we talk about in the classroom tremendously increases the students’ understanding.
"On top of that, this is a great life experience because some of these kids have never been fishing," she said.
Rohnke said he is hopeful the experiment station will continue to serve as a learning and teaching tool for youth and adults.
"Youth education is just one part of the three-pronged mission for the Coastal Plains experiment station," Rohnke said. "It is crucial for youth to gain an understanding of and appreciation for their environment today, because as adults they will be making decisions regarding the future of natural resource conservation."
The field day was funded by a Youth Program Initiative grant through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. The grant also provided 100 fishing rods and reels given to the students.
Organizers plan to hold the Youth Fishing Day every year.