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Gone fishing...at school
Elementary-aged kids often have fishing stories to tell.
Sometimes it’s about the “whopper” that got away or the first time they felt the magical tug on their line. Other times, the story is about the new friend they made at the pond or helped them bait a hook right the first time.
Students at Cross Oaks Elementary in Oak Point can also tell stories about the teacher who is introducing them and their classmates to fishing through their outdoor classroom. Collin Jones is that teacher.
Mr. Jones joined the Cross Oaks family when the school opened in 2010. The physical education teacher knew from day one that the campus’ setting would give him a unique way to reach his students.
With several eco-friendly features built into the building and already existing on the grounds of the campus, Cross Oaks proved to be the perfect spot for Mr. Jones’ idea. The school was built into an existing landscape that included an on-site retention pond stocked with fish.
“We thought long and hard about how to capitalize on this opportunity,” Mr. Jones said. “So, a couple of years back I wrote a grant for the Denton Public Schools Foundation and it was funded. We have 30 fishing poles complete with tackle. Everything we needed to get the program up and running.”
The program is a fishing club for third, fourth and fifth graders at school. Since its beginning in 2014, students meet every Friday at the pond adjacent to their school with rods in hand ready to make sure the big one doesn’t get away. Based on participation, the kids absolutely love their time near the water.
“You get to play a little bit,” said Keinan Adams, a fifth grader in the club. “You get to have fun. You get to talk to your friends. I’m incredibly happy. It’s so fun.”
Mr. Jones has managed to make their fishing time about more than just fun. There’s real learning happening during the fishing club centered on a scientific approach. Whether they realize it or not, students are brushing up on their math and science skills which benefits them later in the classroom.
“When we do catch fish, we have a report that we fill in,” said Jones. “A kid measures the length of the fish, the weight of the fish and the type of fish. We identify the species. We chart the location of where it was caught. We document the weather. We collect the scientific data to help the fishing process.”
That process is producing results and the love of a lifelong skill. Students are actually catching fish and, when they do, they get a coveted spot on the wall with the fish they were able to capture. That is helping this little club blossom into a much bigger thing.
This summer Mr. Jones got help from members of the Cross Oak community to add a pier so the kids didn’t have to stand on the bank to fish. In the works are plans to add a sidewalk that leads to the pond and a ramp to make sure the pier is accessible to everyone.
And making sure everyone has access to the pier, the pond and the fishing club is what Mr. Jones will consider the perfect ending to the work week.
“I look forward to Fridays. I really do,” said Mr. Jones. “It’s the highlight of my week.”