OK, here’s an idea West Virginia should borrow.
Lawmakers in Arkansas last month passed a bill that allows public schools to offer hunter safety education courses as part of their physical education, health and safety curricula.
The courses, open to students in grades 5-12, help prepare students to hunt safely without adult supervision.
Under Arkansas law, no one born after 1968 is allowed to purchase a hunting license without having passed a hunter-ed course. Unless they’ve passed a hunter-ed course, children under age 18 must have a licensed adult present when they hunt.
West Virginia has similar laws. No one born after Jan. 1, 1975 can purchase a hunting license without passing a course. Children age 15 and over must purchase hunting licenses, and no child under age 15 is allowed to hunt unless a licensed adult is within arm’s length and able to render aid.
Having hunter education offered in Mountain State schools would help ensure that kids who are interested in hunting are able to obtain their hunter-ed certification.
It may come as a surprise to some, but years ago hunter-ed classes were routinely offered in junior highs and high schools throughout the state. Conservation officers taught most of them.
But, as paranoia about guns grew among educators, their willingness to offer hunter-ed courses diminished.
According to Glenn Jones, president of the West Virginia Hunter Education Association, members of the state school board didn’t want to take responsibility for allowing hunter education, so they kicked the option down to individual county boards.
The county boards didn’t want to take responsibility, so they kicked the option down to schools’ principals.
Jones said principals in some of the state’s northern counties have begun opening their schools to hunter-ed instructors, and he expects the trend to move southward — eventually.
Why wait for that when members of the Legislature or the state school board could, with the stroke of a pen, officially make hunter education a part of high schools’ phys-ed curriculum?
Better still, why doesn’t the state school board adopt something akin to a program being offered in 657 schools in 41 states? It’s called the Outdoor Adventures Program, and it makes available to students a variety of outdoor-related education opportunities.
The program, provided by a Texas-based nonprofit called the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation, has come up with a 34-unit curriculum that teaches math, science, writing and critical thinking skills at the same time it teaches students about fishing, archery, boating, orienteering, survival skills, camping, outdoor cooking, backpacking, paddle sports, rock climbing, shooting sports and other life-skills activities.
Outdoor Adventure teachers choose among units specific to their region. In West Virginia, students would probably show strong interest in fishing, paddle sports, camping, backpacking and shooting sports.
With 290 lesson plans to choose from, phys-ed teachers should have no problem finding plenty to educate, enlighten and entertain their students.
More than 300 Mountain State schools participate in the state’s Archery in the Schools program, which teaches archery as part of a phys-ed curriculum. How much more attractive would phys-ed classes become if more activities than archery were offered to students?
Perhaps it’s time West Virginians found out.