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Fishing for credit

Students at Waunakee High School on the outskirts of Madison, Wis., will be swapping fish stories in gym class next year thanks to a grant for a new course dedicated to the leisure activity.

Larry Kopf, a physical education teacher at the 700-student school, recently won the grant for his proposal to promote fine-motor skills and an awareness of ecological issues through fishing. So students opting for the class will spend three weeks learning casting, catch and release techniques, and basic angling principles.

The course, a rare offering for high school students, is intended to infuse teenagers with the community passion, which lures fishing-obsessed residents to nearby Lake Wisconsin--even at the crest of winter when fishermen of all ages drop their lines through holes drilled in the ice.

"They can't all be basketball players or football players," said Gary L. Kopitzke, the president of the Catch and Release Bass Anglers Association, one of the members of the Madison Fishing Expo, which awarded the $3,000 grant. Mr. Kopitzke is also the principal of Cottage Grove Elementary School in suburban Madison. "This will show the students that there are some other activities we can be successful at and [that] they can enjoy the outdoors," he said. "We hope to turn these kids on to some of these activities rather than harmful ones."

Mr. Kopf has already found support in the fishing community. Professional fisherman and supply-store owner Tom Boehm has volunteered to share a few stories of his own with the classes, while providing pointers and a tour of the lake.

Students will first practice in pools, then hone their new skills on the lake, 15 miles away from the high school.

The grant will pay for designing the curriculum and purchasing rods, reels, and other equipment.

The new program, to begin next spring, will join the school's other unusual physical education offerings. In addition to the more traditional sports, students at Waunakee High School can choose in-line skating, pickle ball, table tennis, water exercise, and broom ball.

"There is a real emphasis at the junior and senior level on promoting lifetime activities," Mr. Kopf said. "We try to keep our finger on the pulse of what the kids want."


Vol. 16, Issue 14

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