'If you teach a man to fish': St. Charles uses grant funding to take students ice fishing
The school actually received the grant before the pandemic began. Due to the circumstances, the project was sidelined and delayed until this spring.
ST. CHARLES, Minn. — It's hard to believe a Midwest staple like ice fishing hasn't been embedded in Minnesota's education system for eons already, but St. Charles Elementary School has started reversing that ghastly oversight.
With the help of a $5,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the school started easing students into the fishing scene.
"It's more about adding lifelong activities for kids," said PE teacher Scott Kobs. "Not everyone wants to be on the basketball team or the volleyball team or the starter of the softball team. But you know what? This kid really loves the outdoors."
The school actually received the grant back before the pandemic began. Due to the circumstances, the project was sidelined until this spring.
The school's third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders are participating in the new physical education segment. Wednesday morning, a group of sixth-graders made their way out to Jessen Park Lake near the town's golf course to try their hand at the craft.
They found a slew of ice holes ready for their lines, although Kobs also showed them how to drill through the ice with an auger. Thanks to the cold March weather, there were still 14 inches of ice on the lake.
Sai Eckles was among the most prepared for the cold-weather activity, wearing a skimask, scarf and ski goggles. Another student, Cecelia Johnson, said she forgot they were going fishing and that it would have been nice to have a little more padding.
"Wear layers," Jocelyn Wolter said.
Meanwhile, an adult volunteer, Terry Garteski, was going around to the various spots with a depth finder, teaching students how to spot fish on the radar. With all the technology in the world, he emphasized the importance of getting back outdoors.
"I just think it's a good experience, especially for the ones who don't know this exists," Garteski said about ice fishing. "There's a place for electronics, but too many kids spend too many hours on them."
Kobs estimated the experience was new for at least half the class. A student sitting at one hole described its as "cold and boring."
But, another student sitting nearby had a different opinion. "It's not boring when you have the big tent and the heaters," Aspyn Gust said.
Unlike hard-core anglers, the students only had about a half hour on the ice before continuing on to the next assignment for the day.
"It's not enough to have a bucket full of fish," Kobs said. "But it's enough to give them a taste of what fishing is like."