Last Thursday, about 15 Hastings Middle School students took over a cement slab in the Mississippi River just downstream of Lock and Dam No. 2 in the hopes that they would get to catch a fish.
The outing was for the Hastings Middle School’s Outdoor Club, a group that’s been around for more than 20 years, said Spencer Johnson, the club’s advisor. It’s open to every student at the middle school and gets kids involved in a number of outdoor activities; the past few years those activities have been provided free for students.
The students go fishing in the spring and fall, attend the Minnesota Sportsmen’s Show, go ice fishing in the winter and take a class teaching them how to make their own fishing lures.
The club is valuable on multiple levels. First, it teaches students new skills.
“This is a life skill,” Johnson said of the fishing outing.
The club provides bait, fishing rods if needed, snacks and transportation to and from the fishing site. Adults are on hand to give personal instruction to any student who needs any amount of help. At last week’s event, teacher Andy Valek, a major contributor to the club, was among those on hand to help students. While several of the students are already avid fishers, some are just getting started and others don’t have the equipment or ability to go fishing on their own.
The club also provides an opportunity for students to get involved in a non-traditional school activity.
“A lot of these kids aren’t involved in other activities,” Johnson said. “… (The club) gets them involved.”
It doesn’t hurt, Johnson added, that Hastings is particularly well situated for an outdoor club.
“We live in a great area,” he said, pointing to the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers as well as Lake Rebeca as great spots for fishing right here in Hastings.
On fishing outings, not every student catches a fish. But Johnson said he makes sure every student walks away with some sort of prize to make the day memorable.
Johnson said that the club could use more donations of fishing gear, including poles, bait and lures. For donation information, contact Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.