Fur, fishing and feathers were on the agenda Friday at Kingsway Park elementary school in Thunder Bay, Ont., as students marked National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day one day early.
Volunteers and staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Sportsman’s Alliance and Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) set up a variety of hands-on activities, all designed to help the kids experience different outdoor pursuits.
Grade 8 student Jordana Van Ginkel was helping outside with the fishing station, where kids were casting lines and aiming for bright orange buckets and hula hoops.
“It shows what being in nature is like, but in the city, because I feel like if kids are always on their phones or watching TV they never get outside and try new things,” she said.
Since not all children have access to the outdoors through a cottage or summer camp, Keith Nutley, a conservation officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, appreciated the chance to bring a little wilderness to the kids.
He, along with wildlife technician Evelyn Brunner were showing the kids different pelts, including wolf, raccoon, wolverine, fox and marten, and quizzing the students on their knowledge of the furs.
“Awesome, awesome time,” said Nutley, still chuckling over some of the guesses he’d heard from the students.
“One of the boys looked at the beaver, and I think he identified it as turtle, so that was probably the highlight of my day,” said Nutley.
The favourite event for many students was the 3D archery competition in the gymnasium.
Under the watchful eye of trained teachers and Glenn Rivard, a past president of the OFAH and an instructor with the national Archery in the Schools program, kids were learning how to handle bows and arrows, while taking aim at models of a turkey, a bear, a deer and small game like a rabbit.
Rivard praised archery for the fact that although it requires good eye-hand coordination, it’s a sport anyone can enjoy.
“It’s not a sport where it’s only the athletically inclined. Right from the smaller ones to the bigger ones, they can all participate, and compete and it’s their individual achievement,” he said.
Phoebe Shaw, a Grade 7 student at the Lakehead public school board, who was aiming at a plastic deer, said her achievement was having fun.
“I did pretty good, at least for my first time that is,” she said, then added “I got it in the heart.”
Themes around hunting, fishing and trapping are also incorporated into the curriculum, said Darren Lentz, the Kingsway Park principal.
The younger students were doing projects for science on how animals use camouflage, while other students were examining the ecology and ecosystems which support bird and animal populations.
The benefits of a day spent trying new things will last for weeks for both students and staff, he said.
“I get to see kids laugh and smile and have a lot of fun, and be hands-on doing things,” he said, noting that many families at his school hunt and fish on a regular basis.
“It’s really nice to see families spending time outdoors.”
You can also listen to what the day sounded like.