Outdoors skills classes embraced by schools

Story by Ray Sasser
The Dallas Morning News
August 18, 2011
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DALLAS — Schools are starting fall sessions soon, and at least 11,000 Texas middle school and high school students are signed up for a different sort of physical education. Instead of basketballs and tennis rackets, they will use rods and reels and bows and arrows, courtesy of the Dallas Ecological Foundation, an affiliate of the Dallas Safari Club.

They even get school credit for the Outdoor Adventures education program, which is accredited by the Texas Education Association and also meets national education standards.

Since Outdoor Adventures was founded 10 years ago, DEF has spent nearly $1 million in support. DSC officials say the funds are spent on equipment, field trips, curriculum updates and a semiannual shooting event for 125 students at Greystone Castle near Mingus.

For the shooting event, DSC provides bus transportation, food, drinks and all the shooting equipment and coaching. Each student is required to bring a parent, and they must turn off their cellphones and focus on each other. It takes 140 DSC volunteers to man this event.

In January, said DSC executive director Ben Carter, 400 to 500 students are expected to attend DSC’s convention and hunting expo.

“I think the Outdoor Adventures program is the best thing we have going,” Carter said. “Recruitment through education should be the focus of conservationists and sportsmen. Without the next generation of outdoorsmen, our conservation and advocacy efforts will have no meaning.”

Outdoor Adventures coordinator Scot McClure said the program took off once DEF hired professional curriculum writers to make Outdoor Adventures conform to education standards. In the last five years, Outdoor Adventures has expanded to 110 schools from 21.

DEF gets help from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Midway USA Foundation Inc., the Houston Safari Club and private donors. The curriculum covers TPWD education courses in hunting, boating, fishing and the National Archery in Schools program. Also covered are camping, paddle sports, survival skills, orienteering and GPS, first aid, hiking, backpacking, outdoor cooking and conservation/environmental issues.

“Many schools have a waiting list for the class,” McClure said. “School principals report improved self-esteem, attendance, discipline and grades from Outdoor Adventure students. It’s also a gateway to extracurricular activities for a lot of kids who don’t ordinarily participate in outside activities.”

The curriculum is modular, meaning schools can pick and choose subject matter they consider appropriate for their students. It costs DEF about $4,000 to buy equipment for Outdoor Adventures, but the gear can be shared between two or three schools in the same district.

“A generation that has not experienced the outdoors will have no reference point for the support of conservation and other outdoor issues,” Carter said.

Details about the program are available from Scot McClure, 972-392-3505, or email scotdallasecological%foundation.org.

(c) 2011, The Dallas Morning News.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Ray Sasser


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The Ogden Nature Center is located at 966 W. 12th St. in Ogden. For more information, visit www.ogdennaturecenter.org or call 801-621-7595.