Go Fish

By Kristina Gawrgy — August 12, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Sitting for hours on a frozen lake in a lightless shed with a stick in your hand isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, let alone art. But Minnesota teacher Bob Johnson has made it into one of Brainerd Senior High School’s most popular classes.

Bob Johnson and his students

“I’m getting totally different students [who] may not be involved in an art class,” says the instructor. “These are kids that won’t go into your typical drawing class or painting class, but they are learning composition. They are learning value and how to critique their work.”

The work in question is fish decoys: designing them, carving them, painting them, and ultimately ice fishing with them. It’s not a class many states could offer, but in the Land of 10,000 (frequently frozen) Lakes, the practice of spear fishing with decoys is older than Columbus.

Continuing so old a tradition satisfies the longtime “darkhouse” fisherman—so named for the enclosures he and other practitioners shelter in to keep the fish visible enough to be speared. Johnson, who’s a world-champion decoy carver, wanted to teach his students something that’s fun and highly educational, but also relevant to their state’s history.

His ultimate goal is to make the endangered practice of decoy carving a lifetime hobby for students. That’s more likely than it might seem—the class has grown exponentially since he started it five years ago.Administrators eventually allowed Johnson to teach two classes of 25 students each, and last year, 42 additional students asked if they could get in on the action.

Johnson’s class may be an elective, but it’s not easy to get an A. In addition to fulfilling the art requirements, students must keep a journal and do extensive research, including interviews with local spearers and carvers.But with a subject so absorbing, students say they don’t mind the extra coursework. Senior Chris Hoffman’shomework even got his father hooked on fish decoy carving. “[Dad] was asking about it,” Chris says, “and after I brought home some fish, I brought him to the shop and showed him how to make [them].”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
How to Leverage Virtual Learning: Preparing Students for the Future
Hear from an expert panel how best to leverage virtual learning in your district to achieve your goals.
Content provided by Class
English-Language Learners Webinar AI and English Learners: What Teachers Need to Know
Explore the role of AI in multilingual education and its potential limitations.
Education Webinar The K-12 Leader: Data and Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know
Which topics are capturing the attention of district and school leaders? Discover how to align your content with the topics your target audience cares about most. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education From Our Research Center What's on the Minds of Educators, in Charts
Politics, gender equity, and technology—how teachers and administrators say these issues are affecting the field.
1 min read
Stylized illustration of a pie chart
Traci Daberko for Education Week
Education Briefly Stated: August 30, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: August 23, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: August 16, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read