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4-H Leaders Prepare Sport Fishing Program
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Young people have enjoyed fishing for hundreds of years, but Mississippi's 4-H and fisheries leaders are developing a program that will take the sport to a new level in the next millennium.
4-H and fisheries leaders are working on an educational fishing-related curriculum, which they hope to have in place in the fall of 2000. The program includes four major areas: angling skills, aquatic ecology, people and fish, and tackle crafting.
Dr. Marty Brunson, fisheries specialist with Mississippi State University's Extenison Service, said sport fishing and related activities can teach young people many valuable life skills in a relatively inexpensive way.
"From fishing-related activities, youth learn patience, discipline, analytical thinking, respect for resources and hand-eye coordination," he said. "Participation in the four major disciplines will provide exposure to opportunities that can prepare youth for life's challenges."
4-H leaders chose to begin a sport fishing program because it is a safe sport attractive to youth of all backgrounds. They can learn life skills with equipment as basic as a cane pole and a bucket of worms, Brunson said.
"Because of the great water resources in Mississippi and the small expense for equipment, people of all social and economic backgrounds, in rural and urban areas, can participate in fishing-related activities," Brunson said. "About half the adults in the state fish. Now we want to be sure young people are provided the opportunity not only to fish, but to develop critical life skills as they learn to enjoy the sport."
The sport fishing program will be tested this spring in a small number of selected counties. Interested counties must apply for a pilot program and have a 4-H youth agent and four volunteers attend a training session. Brunson said leaders hope to be able to use the pilots to test the program's success in a variety of situations.
"We would like to begin with six to 12 pilot programs around the state," he said. "We want to see how the program works with younger children versus teens. We also want to look at its success in both rural and urban areas, and we want to have some programs go strictly by the curriculum and lesson plans while others will be encouraged to include even more hands-on practice than the lesson plans call for."
Leaders will evaluate the pilot programs for 18 months and make changes in the curriculum based on their observations before the program is offered to all counties. Agent and volunteer training for pilot programs will be in February, with pilot programs beginning activity in early April. Brunson said there are ideas to be incorporated into the program later.
"We want youth to use the fishing program to tie in to some of the other 4-H activities," he said. "For example, we will set up a photography category for fishing pictures or arts and crafts category for handcrafted lures. We want this program to fit in closely with other 4-H programs already established to give the kids the maximum number of opportunities."
Brunson said program leaders will also set up age-specific achievement programs so participants can receive awards for their accomplishments in the program.
"This program is based on the premise that young people learn by doing," Brunson said. "If we can give young people the opportunity to achieve in a program like this, we have helped them learn skills that will benefit them throughout life."