During the 2021-2022 school year, the Butler Area School District initiated the Fishing is Fun in Butler program in several of the elementary buildings. This program was started as an extension of the Fly Tying Club that has been in existence for several years at the Butler Intermediate High School, and complimented the Fisheries Science program components at both the Butler Middle School and Butler Senior High School.
The Fishing is Fun program was funded by a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission R3 Grant. The R3 grant was created for organizations planning educational activities to recruit, retain, and reactivate anglers and boaters across the state of Pennsylvania. For the 2021-2022 school year, the Butler Area School District was one of eight organizations across the state to receive one of these grants, and one of only two school districts chosen for funding.
With the return to in-person learning, one aspect of the Fishing is Fun program was the reactivation of the Fly Tying Club at the Butler Intermediate High School. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Fly Tying Club was an after school program, attended by students in grades 7-9 who were interested in learning to tie flies and building relationships. This year, the program was reenergized with both an in-school and after school component. Due to an overwhelming response from students, two sections of the club were held during activity periods throughout the school year, allowing more students the opportunity to learn about fly fishing. These in-school sessions were supplemented with several after school sessions, allowing students the chance to expand on their tying skills. These sessions were organized and led by BIHS Science Teacher Chris Popovich, a lifelong angler committed to helping students learn additional fishing skills.
The second part of the grant was geared toward engaging students at the elementary level. Three buildings -- Broad Street, Emily Brittain, and Summit (CAPS) -- were chosen for this pilot program to gauge student interest. Students in grades 2-4 at these buildings were eligible to participate in the program, which included four after school instructional sessions on fishing skills at each of the schools. These sessions included instruction on casting, knot tying, fish identification, and use of lures and bait. Students in the club received a small tackle box during the first session, and received pieces of tackle to add to their collection at each meeting that they attended. In addition, students took part in a casting competition during the last session, giving them a chance to display the skills they had worked so hard on during the meetings. During the planning for this program, it was hoped that we could get 20 students per building to participate, but the program ended up with an enrollment of over 150 children between the three buildings.
As a culminating activity, a family fishing day was planned for Glade Run Lake in southern Butler County. On April 23, the BASD sponsored this event in conjunction with the Butler Middle School catfish release day. The BMS raises channel catfish as part of the PA Fish and Boat Commission Cooperative Nursery program, and these young fish are fin clipped and released at Glade Run Lake as part of the lake’s fish population reestablishment program. Since all of these fish are fin clipped, this enables fisheries biologists to determine if natural reproduction is taking place during future population studies. Students who attended this event were able to assist with the fin clipping activity, as well as take part in an adult trout stocking that took place later that day. BASD employees were on hand at the event to provide information, equipment, and support to families as fishing activities took place. This event was an overwhelming success, as over 100 students registered the day of the event and participated in fishing activities.
To continue the momentum that this program has started, fishing tackle loaner stations will be set up at buildings across the district. Equipment that was part of this grant program will be available for district families to sign out and use, and it is hoped that many of the skills that were learned during after school sessions will be practiced throughout the upcoming summer months with family and friends.
This program would not have been possible without the assistance of the PA Fish and Boat Commission, and the many BASD staff and community members who volunteered countless hours to make sure that the program was successful. An additional thank you to the BASD Administration team for supporting the grant application and helping to ensure the success of the program at all levels.
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